Declining visits, financial losses prompt closing of Bethel clinic
Dr. Richard Rawl will continue seeing his Bethel patients at the ECU Family Medicine Center in Greenville. Photos by Doug Boyd
(June 6, 2012)
The Bethel Family Practice Center operated by East Carolina University's Brody School of Medicine will close and its faculty, staff and clinical services will move to the new Family Medicine Center in Greenville effective Sept. 1, university officials have announced.
A number of factors contributed to this decision, said Dr. Ken Steinweg, professor and chairman of the Department of Family Medicine. Among them are declining patient visits, continuing financial losses and the opportunity to serve patients in the new Family Medicine Center, which offers an enhanced environment.
"One of the factors is the opportunity to take the very high quality of care traditionally provided by Dr. Richard Rawl in Bethel and move his care to a beautiful modern facility with appropriate ancillary services to support the patient centered medical home in a more cost efficient manner," said Steinweg.
"Another factor is the very unfortunate reality that the Bethel facility has been seriously outdated and operating with an increasing deficit for several years," he said. "This is a way we can clearly provide a high quality of care and at the same time provide more efficient stewardship of limited public resources."
In the last fiscal year at the clinic, revenues trailed expenses by approximately $100,000. The number of patient visits has declined from 6,710 in the 2006-2007 fiscal year to 5,221 in fiscal year 2010-11. So far this fiscal year, the clinic has seen 3,884 patients.
Steinweg said Bethel patients will have access to on-site laboratory and X-ray services in the new location, services not available on-site in Bethel. Current patients of Rawl will get priority for his appointment schedule. The Bethel clinic phone line will be routed to a special area in the Family Medicine Center to coordinate the care of Bethel patients after Sept. 1.
"We realize this is a change for the Bethel community," said Dr. Nicholas Benson, vice dean of the Brody School of Medicine. "We will offer the same physician services and staff assistance that our patients are accustomed to in our Bethel clinic, but in a new facility and enhanced setting."
ECU has operated the Bethel clinic for more than 30 years. The facility is 62 years old and has outlived its life expectancy, Steinweg said. The cost of renovations and repairs is not feasible, he said.