New health center coming to Manteo, likely to be open in spring 2023

Published 8:22 am Friday, December 16, 2022

Getting your Trinity Audio player ready...

A new health center is coming to Manteo and Roanoke Island next spring.

Joseph Rockenstein, chief executive officer of Ocracoke Health and Engelhard Medical Centers, made the announcement at the Dec. 6, 2022 meeting of the Health Care Task Force formed by the Board of Commissioners of the Town of Manteo.

Rockenstein said he hopes to have approval by the end of December for a federally qualified health center in to-be-leased space at 402 Budleigh Street in Manteo, where CenturyLink had offices.

Get the latest headlines sent to you

With approval for a new health center, Rockenstein and his organization have 90 days to execute the plan for the new facility.

To deliver medical services, Rockenstein anticipates six to eight new hires.

The new medical operation would operate on a full-time basis on hours yet to be established.

Federally qualified health centers must provide three health services: physical, mental and dental, said Rokenstein, who is working with East Carolina University School of Dentistry to set up a program.

Federally qualified health centers have the mission to create whole-person care without any financial barriers, serve the underserved and bridge the gap in health care for Medicaid, Medicare, uninsured and underinsured people.

That mission is spelled out by the Health Resources and Services Administration that governs these health centers. Locally, a board of directors is in charge of the health centers. Patients must comprise 51% of board members.

Patient care is the focus of the task force.

New Dare County Schools Superintendent Steve Basnight attended the meeting, along with school board Chairman David Twiddy. Basnight affirmed that additional behavioral health resources are needed. “There’s a need,” said Basnight, who noted that parents are taking kids to Virginia for counseling.

Another major announcement followed.

Franklin Walker with the North Carolina Medical Society Foundation, announced the start of new program aimed at Dare County.

Recruiting medical professionals for work in rural settings is difficult. Walker’s foundation offers a program of debt repayment of $70,000 over five years of working in a rural area. The program is active in 88 of North Carolina’s 100 counties.

Walker offers an early program to begin the recruiting process. He already has three medical schools ready to send students to Dare County for a preceptor program, which entails following a medical professional through the day for a month, six weeks or three months.

At the regular meeting of Manteo’s Board of Commissioners on Wednesday, Dec. 7, Malcolm Fearing, chairman of the town’s Health Care Task Force, and Randy Fenninger, who chairs the Recruitment and Retention Committee for the task force, made brief presentations.

Fearing told the commissioners that only one building north of Midway intersection was available for lease and that was 402 Budleigh Street. He told the board that town commissioner Tod Clissold owns the building and that he is not holding Rockenstein’s organization to a long term lease. “It is a compassionate decision,” said Fearing.

Fearing told the commissioners the announcement is “bringing hope and health care to our constituents, to our families and friends.”

Fenninger told the commissioners that the preceptor program provides exposure to the Outer Banks and to the type of medical work available. Reaching out to local physicians has started.

Housing will be required and Fenninger said the task force is now investigating possibilities.