Category Archives: Cape Fear News

Cape Fear HealthNet part of push to expand access to medical care


Wilmington’s public hospital provided $12.9 million in free health care last budget year. That figure doesn’t account for more than $30 million in write-offs termed “bad debt,” a catch-all phrase that includes people who didn’t qualify for charity care but who couldn’t afford to pay their hospital bill.

And while your health care costs are going up, in part because of cost shifting, many uninsured and under-insured Cape Fear area residents cannot afford even basic care. Inequity is built into the system, and it’s straining the resources of providers, patients and employers. Despite the loud assault on health care reform, few could argue convincingly that our system doesn’t need a shot of something. That means being willing to look outside the traditional, fragmented health care delivery system to fill the gaps, little by little.

Health care reform on a national level has gotten a lot of attention. But the most immediate solutions are likely to come from within our communities, where the people who need help are more than statistics used to support a political argument.

The Cape Fear region is fortunate to have a number of organizations that have worked tirelessly to provide affordable health care to the under-served. St. Mary’s and Tileston clinics in Wilmington and New Hope Clinic in Boiling Spring focus on caring for uninsured people, who often put off seeking help because they cannot afford it. The New Hanover County Health Department, New Hanover Community Health Center and New Hanover Regional Medical Center’s clinics serve uninsured patients and Medicaid recipients, who often have difficulty finding a private physician that will take the government insurance plan.

But these medical resources, while a godsend, are overstretched. New Hanover Regional’s clinics are so overwhelmed that they cannot take on new patients; the other clinics too are overflowing. And still there are people in our community who cannot get the health care they need. Many of them seek help in the emergency room – an expensive and inefficient way to handle mild illnesses and routine medical problems.

The aforementioned organizations and a number of other human services agencies came together to form Cape Fear HealthNet, with a mission of bridging the gaps in our health care system and helping people find a “medical home.” Last week, the group opened its “episodic” care clinic, which will rotate among St. Mary’s, Tileston and Wilmington Health Access for Teens to take walk-ins.

But beyond treating the flu, sprains and other ailments, the clinic will serve as an access point into the health care network in New Hanover and Brunswick counties. The goal is to refer patients who visit the new clinic to a more permanent “home” for medical care.

Note that these groups are working together, even though each has its individual mission. That is the key. It is in their best interest to help stretch limited resources as far as possible while helping more people get the care they need.

This didn’t happen at the federal level, and it didn’t involve a heated battle to score political points. The motivation and the effort came from right here in the Cape Fear region, using mostly private grants and some state money. Local residents and local health care leaders saw a need and set about trying to meet it.

That is how things get done. Washington, take note.

For more information about the new clinic, call 777-4242.

County, volunteers, staff celebrate New Hope Clinic’s new facility


By Carolyn Bowers
StarNews correspondent

Published: Monday, July 26, 2010 at 9:07 a.m.

The staff, volunteers and supporters of New Hope Clinic celebrated the official opening of its new facility on July 17 with guided tours, refreshments, live music, speeches and three separate ribbon cuttings.

Representatives from each of the three local chambers of commerce – Brunswick County, North Brunswick and Southport-Oak Island – cut their respective ribbons, symbolizing the county’s support for this answer to the need for free medical and dental care.

Gretchen Bodinsky, president and chairman of the board, acknowledged Dr. Ziaollah Hashemi in her opening remarks as “the one who first recognized the need for a free clinic in Brunswick County in 1998,” and the one who started the first clinic. She recalled that when she told Irene Hennessey, one of the major donors for that first clinic, about the event, Hennessey said, “Hallelujah! It’s about time.”

Bodinsky told an audience of more than 200 friends, volunteers and supporters that the clinic is run by only four paid staff members, along with a volunteer staff of 130 doctors, nurses, physician assistants, dentists, pharmacists, and administrative personnel who handled more than 4,000 patient visits last year.

She then put in a brief plug for the clinic’s Building Fund Campaign.

The campaign is now fullyunder way. An elegant Donor Recognition Tree is mounted in the main lobby of the new building.

Supporters may have their name and a message permanently imprinted on a gold, silver, or bronze leaf. There are also some named gift opportunities still available to sponsor, including a medical exam room, a dental operatory or lab, patient eligibility rooms and doctors’ office.

Dr. Karen Wood, New Hope Clinic medical director, paid tribute to former executive director Connie Hendrix, who “made the clinic her life,” and said that “without her we wouldn’t be here today.” She told the crowd that Atlantic Realty real estate broker “David Berne not only donated the land, but he is the one who really spearheaded this project.”

She expressed her gratitude for the great job being done by Bodinsky and Sheila Roberts, executive director of the clinic.

Next she recognized the many hours and dedicated service of longtime volunteers Dave Anderson, Barbara Lidoski, Dr. Sid Fortney, Pam Johnson, Dora Loflin, Lynn Kuhn, Pat Hagerty, and Carmela Groce.

Nicole Lamoureux, executive director of the National Association of Free Clinics commented on the importance of free clinics nationwide and assured the crowd that, in spite of the newly passed health care legislation, “free clinics will always be needed.”

State Rep. Frank Iler, R-Brunswick, promised to “hook up folks from here to the folks in Raleigh.”

Last on the agenda, Southport-Oak Island Kiwanis Club President Dennis O’Connor presented Roberts with a $1,000 check to fund the children’s play area in the main lobby.

Lynn Kuhn, guiding a tour through the new building, contrasted it with the smaller former facility.

“This is an eligibility room,” she said. “And it’s really great because it’s no longer a bathroom.”

For more information, or to volunteer or make a tax-free donation, please call (910) 845-5333.