Healthcare Task Force continues work

Published 3:39 pm Thursday, October 13, 2022

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“People are excited and hopeful,” said Healthcare Task Force Chairman Malcolm Fearing on at a meeting of the group on Oct. 4, 2022.

Fearing summarized the current situation, stating that the federally qualified health centers in Engelhard and Ocracoke are expanding to Manteo. “We are coming,” said Joseph Rockenstein, the chief executive officer of the combined centers to the task force and to Manteo’s Board of Commissioners.

The task force has settled into a meeting agenda.

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Fearing, making the Facilities Committee report for a traveling Jim Tobin, said he had shown Rockenstein vacant land and buildings. Fearing said “I showed nothing my family owns or have anything to do with.”

Randy Fenninger, chairs the Recruitment and Retention Committee. He has started some recruiting. He has been in touch with Franklin Walker, executive director of the Community Practitioner Program, sponsored by the North Carolina Medical Society Foundation. Back in June, Walker made a presentation to the Manteo commissioners.

Walker has agreed to participate in the task force work.

Additionally, Fenninger has touched base with state level organizations.

Manteo commissioner Tod Clissold heads up the Project Funding Committee. He indicated some COVID funds may be useful.

Town manager Melissa Dickerson explained that $400,000 in COVID money came to the town. The commissioners elected to use the funding for revenue replacement. That decision will free up some budget items. She is working with the town attorney to craft a legal instrument to financially assist the work of the task force.

Fearing called on Tess Judge, who chairs The Outer Banks Hospital’s Board of Directors, to deliver an update on the hospital efforts regarding the Outer Banks Family Medicine in Manteo.

The report was prepared by Amy Montgomery, senior administrator of operations at the hospital. Both Judge and Montgomery are members of the task force.

The report states that primary care has been re-established for more than 300 patients who were on the waitlist. Montgomery attributes that re-established care to the arrival of Dr. David Worthen in Manteo in July and Dr. Mark Worthen in Nags Head in September.

Montgomery’s report states that a “full complement of providers” will be available in Manteo when Dr. Erin Baker arrives at the clinic in early November. She also reports that Marina Turner, a family nurse practitioner, will begin practicing in early November in Nags Head.

On Oct. 3, the Outer Banks Medical Group team will begin making calls to schedule appointments with Baker or Turner.

The primary care access telephone phone line remains open to all local residents who are looking for a primary care provider, writes Montgomery. The number to call is 252-449-4540. This number is set up to receive voicemail only and callers who leave a message will receive a return phone call within three business days, states the report.

At the start of the meeting, Fearing asked about establishing a timeline for the task force’s work.

Toward the end of meeting, committee members circled back to that topic.

Dare County’s director of Health and Human Services Sheila Davies explained the process for producing the Dare County Community Health Needs Assessment. The department and partner The Outer Banks Hospital work together on the report that takes about a year to produce. Members of Healthy Carolinians of the Outer Banks meet monthly during the production year, but quarterly at other times. Davies said she would be happy to have someone from the task force join that organization.

Task force member and pharmacist Kevin Phillips commented for the timeline “mental health is an ongoing issue.”

Davies said “certainly this work needs to continue.” She pointed to the North Carolina Institute of Medicine as a model. The institute produces reports with recommendations.

The Town of Manteo now has a page set aside for the Healthcare Task Force. The site is accessed through Select the Government button. The newly created Healthcare Task Force is the last one in the Boards and Committees listing.