The Dare County Board of Commissioners held a special meeting Tuesday in the wake of Roanoke Island losing, at least on a temporary basis, its largest primary healthcare provider one week ago.
Dare County Board of Commissioners Chairman Bob Woodard opened the special meeting by sharing the timeline of recent events regarding Outer Banks Family Medicine – Manteo, including his correspondence with leadership at The Outer Banks Hospital and ECU Health.
Woodard expressed his disappointment that the public and members of local governments were not able to comment during last Friday’s meeting of The Outer Banks Hospital Board of Directors.
A recording of comments by TOBH President Donnie Sloan, made to the hospital’s board was played during Tuesday’s special meeting, where he explained the challenges faced to continue offering primary care providers on Roanoke Island.
Sloan’s comments made last Friday included a detailing of the challenges that all of the healthcare industry is facing across the country, including burnout from the COVID-19 pandemic, the housing situation on the Outer Banks and other factors.
He said the Outer Banks Family Medicine – Manteo practice is not closing, and that the situation is considered temporary.
A letter will soon be going out to the 2,400 patients impacted announcing they will be able to join a wait list to return to OBFM-Manteo, once a new single practitioner becomes available sometime in July.
Woodard said that much of Sloan’s presentation answered a number of questions about the situation that OBFM was facing. He also noted a joint presentation that took place on Friday in Manteo on the community health program in the state that could be an option to help alleviate the shortfall in local healthcare.
Woodard noted he was “cautiously optimistic, encouraged” by the information from Sloan.
“We all need to step back a moment, and put your thoughts in check and get rid of the anger and angst and let’s work together,” Woodard said, directing his thoughts towards his fellow board members, the Town of Manteo Board of Commissioners and ECU Health officials.
Town of Manteo Mayor Bobby Owens was invited to speak during the meeting, and also said patience was needed in addressing the situation.
“We need to work together towards a common goal, and that’s the betterment of healthcare in our county and town,” Owens said. “I feel very good, very confident that we are getting there sooner than later,” Owens said.
“Restoring primary care on Roanoke Island and throughout our community is the number one priority I have,” said The Outer Banks Hospital Board of Directors chair Tess Judge.
She reiterated their active recruiting efforts of healthcare professionals to come to the Outer Banks, but are having to deal with challenges that all of the healthcare industry is facing.
Sloan addressed the board directly, listing a number of the accomplishments The Outer Banks Hospital has made in their local healthcare efforts.
“I hope the community takes a look at our ‘heart’, and my ‘heart’ personally, in what we have done for this community, how much we care about this community,” Sloan said. “I am very confident we can get out of this situation very soon.”
“We recognize these challenging times, but we are confident we have the right leaders in place, and that the leadership group are staunch advocates for this community,” said Dr. Jay Briley, President of ECU Health Community Hospitals. “It will take some time as (Dr. Sloan) mentioned to fully restore (services) but we are optimistic in being able to do that.”
The floor was opened to public comment, with more than a half-dozen members of the standing room only audience speaking, along with comments from the individual commissioners all providing their thoughts and experiences with healthcare on the Outer Banks.
Woodard wrapped up the meeting by saying his board will work with the Manteo Board of Commissioners, ECU Health and other stakeholders to take the information gathered during Tuesday’s meeting to work on finding solutions to the healthcare situation.
“We’re going to continue this dialogue, we’re going to see what we can do to attract physicians in our area,” Woodard said. “We’ve got a helluva story to tell folks…who in the world wouldn’t want to live on the Outer Banks!”
After Outer Banks Family Medicine – Manteo stopped providing healthcare services to over 2,400 patients last week, the Dare County Board of Commissioners are the latest to call for a meeting with health officials over access to primary care on Roanoke Island.
The Dare board has scheduled the special meeting for Tuesday, June 28, at 10:30 a.m. in the Dare County Board of Commissioners meeting room, which is adjacent to the Dare County Administration Building located at 954 Marshall C. Collins Drive in Manteo.
The Town of Manteo’s Board of Commissioners requested earlier this month that ECU Health CEO Dr. Michael Waldrum, or another representative of the company formerly known as Vidant Healthcare, appear at their next meeting on July 6.
Patients were informed last month they would have to seek a new primary provider starting June 23, and that the other locations of the Outer Banks Medical Group were not accepting new patients.
“The Outer Banks Medical Group has and will continue to recruit primary care providers to fill the two vacant roles at Outer Banks Family Medicine – Manteo,” according to the letter dated May 23. “We are highly optimistic we will be able to hire at least one new provider in late summer or early fall.”
The letter noted that if or when new personnel are in place, “it will take time to develop the patient population given they can only care for a limited number of patients per day.”
Patients impacted by the closure were given a list of possible providers on the mainland, while some have turned to practices in southeastern Virginia.
Some of those who have been able to find a provider that has space said they were unable to get appointments until the fall at the earliest.
“It is important to know the national healthcare worker shortage, combined with a lack of affordable housing here in the Outer Banks, makes it difficult to recruit and retain providers and care teams,” the letter from Outer Banks Family Medicine states.
Dr. Gary J. Hunter, Chief of Staff at The Outer Banks Hospital, echoed those issues in a commentary published on June 10 at WOBX.com.
Dare County Board of Commissioners Chairman Bob Woodard has requested that several key stakeholders attend their special meeting, including the Town of Manteo Board of Commissioners, Dare County Department of Health & Human Services Director Dr. Sheila Davies, the Dare County Department of Health & Human Services Board, the Outer Banks Hospital Board of Directors and the Vidant Health/ECU Health Board of Directors.
The public is invited to attend the meeting, which will also be livestreamed on Dare County’s YouTube channel. For those who cannot tune in to the livestream, a video of the meeting will also be available on the county’s YouTube channel, Youtube.com/DareCounty.