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New health center to serve uninsured

From left, N.C. Rep. Edith Warren, N.C. Sen. Clark Jenkins, Dr. Tom Irons of East Carolina University, Susan Bernstein, Doug Smith of Greene County Health Care, Diane Poole of University Health Systems of Eastern Carolina, Torlen Wade of the N.C. Office o
GREENVILLE, N.C.   (Oct. 25, 2005)   —   Officials broke ground in north Greenville today for a new community health center designed especially to serve the uninsured.

The 15,000-square-foot, $2.8 million James D. Bernstein Community Health Center will be built on 3.5 acres near the intersection of N.C. 11 and 33. Construction should begin next month and the building should open by next fall, according to Dr. Tom Irons, East Carolina University associate vice chancellor for regional health services and board member of Access East.

Access East, an independent, charitable, non-profit organization, will build and own the center. That group, Eastern Carolina Community Health Centers of Snow Hill and the East Carolina University Division of Health Sciences will operate the center. Federal Public Health Act funds will subsidize operating costs. The act authorizes support for centers that meet certain requirements such as providing programs specifically for the uninsured and turning no patients away.

Full-time and volunteer health care professionals will staff the center. They will provide primary care, dental care and pharmacy services for low-income people in Pitt and surrounding counties, said Irons, who is directing the project. He estimated the center will see as many as 15,000 patients annually within five years. While the center will focus on the uninsured, it will accept all patients who wish to use its services, Irons said. Those without insurance will be billed on a sliding scale according to their income.

The center will be dedicated to the memory of Bernstein, who founded and directed the N.C. Office of Rural Health for more than 30 years. Bernstein died of cancer in June, and his widow, Susan, participated in todays groundbreaking.

"Jim placed community health centers all over the state, many of them still in operation," Irons said. "Over the years, he became one of the most respected and loved rural health leaders in America. He was an especially strong advocate for us in the East. He was very much involved in the planning of this project, and we are thankful to be able to give it his name."

The center will include 16 medical exam rooms, eight dental operatories and areas for audiology, X-ray, social work and other services, many of which arent available at local health departments. Pitt County public health, social services and mental health departments will provide services as well. The center will also will have space for meetings and educational programs for the community and health sciences students. Patients will be seen primarily by appointment.

"The community health center is the only sustainable health care delivery model to meet the needs of the underserved," said Michelle Brooks, administrator of regional health plans with Access East. "Not only will this center improve health status, particularly among the poor, but it will house programs and services that will build both individual and community capacity to improve socio-economic standing as well."

The land and site development, valued at $538,500, have been donated by E.R. Lewis Construction. The Kate B. Reynolds Charitable Trust has pledged $300,000, the Pitt Memorial Hospital Foundation has pledged $225,000, The Duke Endowment has pledged $200,000 and the N.C. Office of Rural Health has committed $200,000 toward construction. Funds from other state and federal agencies and private foundations are pending.

The PMH Foundation raises and distributes money for projects at Pitt County Memorial Hospital and community health projects within Pitt County.

The Duke Endowment was established in 1924 by industrialist and philanthropist James Buchanan Duke. Its mission is to serve the people of North Carolina and South Carolina by supporting higher education, health care, children's welfare and spiritual life. The endowment ranks among the largest foundations in the nation, with grants since 19

 


Contact: Doug Boyd | 252-744-2481