Thank you to our funders!

Cape Fear HealthNet would like to thank our funders for the 2015-2016 fiscal year.  Our efforts on behalf of the uninsured in Southeastern North Carolina would not be as effective without your support.

Brunswick Hospital Authority

Cape Fear Memorial Foundation

The Duke Endowment

Landfall Foundation

Making Waves Foundation

NC Get Covered

NC Rural Health

NC Navigator Consortium

United Way of the Cape Fear Area












san, Statewide Coalition of Affordable Care Act Stakeholders

A Non-Partisan, Statewide Coalition of Affordable Care Act Stakeholders

A Non-Partisan, Statewide Coalition of Affordable Care Act Stakeholders

A Non-Partisan, Statewide Coalition of Affordable Care Act Stakeholde




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.

Low-income patients get medical help at St. Mary Catholic Church


It’s been a while since Larry Holmes last saw a doctor, despite the pains in his chest and the occasional flare-ups of gout.

“It’s been over a year,” Holmes said Wednesday in the waiting room of the newly opened health clinic on the grounds of St. Mary Catholic Church.

Holmes, who is 57 and unemployed, has looked for manual labor jobs, a difficult prospect given the economy and his health problems, he said.

“I’m trying to get my health right,” Holmes said.

The clinic at St. Mary’s, which treats low-income patients who don’t have public or private insurance, opened last week in an attempt to increase much-needed access to health care.

It’s an addition to a free dental clinic that opened more than a year ago at St. Mary’s to treat uninsured people with acute dental problems.

The clinic’s executive director, Laura Vinson-Garvey, sits on the board of Cape Fear HealthNet, a nonprofit collaboration of safety-net providers and social service agencies focused on health options for the uninsured poor.

As the weak economy caused a jump in people without health coverage, the board has gotten concerned about the community’s low-income and free clinics becoming filled to maximum capacity and unable to take on new patients.

Vinson-Garvey worried about patients who came to the dental clinic but had to wait for their extractions until they saw a doctor to get their high blood pressure under control.

“There was basically nowhere for people to go to get their hypertension treated. Some of them had strokes (while they were) waiting to be seen,” she said, adding that the Ann Street clinic decided to help out with the space available to them.

Through a wholly volunteer effort, the clinic added three medical exam rooms with tables given to them by New Hope Clinic from the Brunswick County free clinic’s recent move.

St. Mary’s donates clinic spaces next to the church’s gym near where the Tileston free health clinic used to operate before it moved in 2007. A handful of doctors rotate days to see patients three times a week. All of the office staff besides Vinson-Garvey is made up of volunteers.

Since the medical appointments started, the doctors have seen about 10 patients per clinic, which run two or three hours at a time.

Vinson-Garvey said a number of patients have issues with high blood pressure or diabetes. Many have not seen a doctor in more than a year. And some are newly unemployed and uninsured, jumping back and forth between meeting and not meeting the eligibility requirements for Medicaid.

“They don’t have a medical home,” she said.

Nearly 27,900 people in New Hanover County, or about 15 percent of the population, are uninsured, according to the latest census estimates about health coverage.

The estimates, from the 2008 American Community Survey, also showed that 27 percent of Brunswick County residents, or 27,500 people, reported not having health insurance.

“All of the safety-net partners are stretched,” said Tami Eldridge, executive director for Cape Fear HealthNet. “The demand for services continues to grow. Although Cape Fear HealthNet (member groups) are trying to do everything they can, it’s just outstripping our ability to provide increased services. The addition of St. Mary’s to the scene is a wonderful addition.”

Vicky Eckenrode: 343-2339

On @vickyeckenrode

St. Mary Health Center

412 Ann St., 520-7218

Clinic hours: Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays. Hours vary; call for details.

Eligibility: Free for those 200 percent or less of poverty guidelines. Patients must show proof of income and are asked to give a $10 donation if they can.

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.

Scott Whisnant: New group hopes to fill a hole in the health care net


April 5, 2010 was a blessed day for me.

That was the day Duke won the national championship, but, trust me, that’s not it. No, that was the day I was diagnosed with cancer.


Yes. On that Monday afternoon, I stopped dead in my tracks at my job that fully insures me and encourages its employees to take proactive steps toward better health, and said to myself, “I am tired of feeling tired all the time.” Without asking anyone’s permission, I drove to my family doctor, who worked me in within an hour. He felt the lump near my collarbone, and within an hour I had a CT scan. By the end of the afternoon, I had a biopsy and a diagnosis.

Hodgkins Lymphoma. Stage 3b. Blessed, indeed.

Up to this point, other than a routine copay at the family doctor, no one had said a word about cost, whether I could afford treatment or whether my insurance would pay. All that mattered was diagnosis and treatment. When our nation’s health care system gets it right, it really gets it right.

Which leads me to ask: What if I were one of our nation’s 45 million without insurance? At no point did my symptoms keep me from trudging into work day after day, which, had my livelihood depended on it, I surely would have kept on doing … until the tumors overwhelmed me and I either died or became an expensive charity case all of you would have indirectly helped pay for.

We as a society have to be better than this.

In New Hanover, Brunswick and Pender counties alone, the state’s Institute of Medicine estimates about 48,000 adults are without health insurance. These are generally hardworking people who hold jobs, pay taxes and want the best for their children.

A depressingly high number have no doctor and little if any access to any medical care, and almost every one of them is a tumor away from either bankruptcy or charity hardship at the local hospital.

In too many cases, the most meaningful result is life-limiting illness or death.

There are some local efforts in place to address this.

Cape Fear HealthNet has been working to take what we call our safety net – free clinics, federally funded clinics, health department and hospital clinics – and weave them into a collaborative system that can better serve the low-income uninsured.

HealthNet “navigators” assist in finding the limited medical appointments available and in plugging into the other social services, such as food stamps, prescription assistance or emergency shelter services, available in the community. A nurse advocate works with those with chronic disease, teaching them how to care for themselves rather than making repeated trips to the emergency room.

HealthNet has funded additional health providers, typically Family Nurse Practitioners, at the free clinics, as well as programs that help the chronically ill apply for free long-term medication assistance.

But HealthNet’s finest moment to date was July 1, the day Dr. Janelle Rhyne, one of the state’s most respected internal medicine and infectious disease physicians, began as medical director. Under Rhyne’s leadership, HealthNet will open an “episodic care” clinic based at Tileston Health Clinic, St. Mary Church’s new medical clinic, and Wilmington Health Access for Teens. The clinic will reach those low-income uninsured patients with fevers, infections and nagging illnesses that need to be treated before they become something worse. Think of it as urgent care for the uninsured.

With Rhyne on board, HealthNet will also begin asking the community’s private physicians to volunteer to take on a limited number of patients, helping to reduce the overwhelming unmet need. Through these types of efforts, HealthNet and its partners can chip away at this issue and provide the uninsured with the human dignity of medical treatment when they are sick.

HealthNet is entirely grant-funded, but that can’t last forever. We will need support from our businesses, our government, and private donors who recognize our community is better off when more of us stay healthy and productive.

I say “we” because I am chairman of Cape Fear HealthNet’s board, and have been since its inception four years ago. Until April 5, the issue of access to health care was important to me, but only as a policy matter that affected someone else. Today it’s personal.

I call my diagnosis a blessing, but it shouldn’t be. It should be a right. Not as an entitlement, but as a byproduct of citizenship of the greatest nation on earth.

This isn’t about universal health care, single-payer systems or any of the buzzwords driving today’s health care debate. This is about being able to go to a doctor when you’re sick.

Don’t count on health care reform to solve this. The programs that cover the uninsured don’t start until 2014 and even then, if we don’t have enough doctors in primary care, it won’t really matter.

I am lucky, but it shouldn’t have come down to that. If you’re sick and it’s treatable, you should have a chance to get well.

We are better than this.

Former StarNews reporter Scott Whisnant works in government relations for New Hanover Regional Medical Center and chairs Cape Fear HealthNet. He reports his prognosis for full recovery is excellent and thanks everyone who has been so supportive of him and his family.

Rhyne named medical director


Rhyne named medical director

SOUTHEASTERN N.C. | Janelle Rhyne has been hired as medical director for Cape Fear Health Net.

Rhyne, who has worked in internal medicine and infectious disease in the area, will help the nonprofit group, which coordinates and expands access to care for the poor and uninsured in the region.

As part of her new job, Rhyne will lead an episodic care clinic for patients who have nowhere else to go for primary care and will support the care of chronically ill patients who have established a medical home in the safety net.

Rhyne has previously worked for the New Hanover County Health Department and Wilmington Health Associates and was New Hanover Regional Medical Center’s hospital epidemiologist where she served as chief of staff.

Health briefs – NHRMC employees raise money for patient care

New Hanover Regional Medical Center employees raised nearly $109,000 to for a campaign that supports projects in the hospital that benefits patients and employees in need.

The fund, the NHRMC Foundation’s Employee Campaign, gives donors the option of donating to the general fund or to a specific service line, the Nursing Resource Fund or the Employee Benevolent Fund for employees facing a financial crisis.

“We are so pleased to see how strongly NHRMC employees feel about supporting not only the mission of the hospital but also each other,” Aline Lasseter, executive director of the NHRMC Foundation, said in a statement. “These are very caring people who want to help out and make things better.”

Bostick on board
Alysa Bostick, director of physician relations for Wilmington Health Associates, was recently elected to the Carolinas Association for Physician Services’ board of directors. The group is an association of health care recruiters for hospitals and large practices throughout the Carolinas.

Grant to aid dental access
Cape Fear HealthNet, which serves New Hanover and Brunswick counties, has been awarded a $300,000 grant as part of a statewide initiative to improve access dental care for low-income, high-need patients.

The money comes from the N.C. Health and Wellness Trust Fund, which recently gave out more than $1.9 million in grants to seven groups across the state.

“It is unfortunate that many North Carolina citizens do not receive basic dental care, which is so critical for overall good health,” Vandana Shah cq, the trust fund’s executive director, said in a statement.

Untreated oral health problems can impact affect other health issues. Research has shown a link between chronic oral health infections to diabetes, heart and lung disease, stroke, low birth rate and premature births, according to the trust fund.

The trust fund receives part of North Carolina’s tobacco settlement funds for programs focusing on health access, prevention and education.

– Vicky Eckenrode

HealthNet helps local people find health care

By Si Cantwell

A woman we’ll call Jane came to the New Hanover County Department of Social Services needing health care. She didn’t have insurance, so she was referred to Tileston Health Clinic.

Tileston found free medicine for her high blood pressure, but tests were needed to find out why she was having trouble breathing. New Hanover Regional Medical Center performed the tests and found she had pulmonary fibrosis. Scarring in her lungs made breathing difficult.

She needed a nebulizer, which pushes medicine into the lungs. She’d been to the emergency room several times for treatment.

That’s when Gina Bradley enters the story. She’s the nurse advocate for Cape Fear HealthNet.

HealthNet is a coalition of agencies in New Hanover and Brunswick counties. It helps people find health care. It arose from the Healthy Carolinians initiative and was incorporated in 2008.

Bradley was able to get Jane a nebulizer. She went to Jane’s home to teach her how to set it up and use it. She’s teaching Jane how exercise and a proper diet can help with her blood pressure.

HealthNet’s services go beyond traditional medical care. Bradley teaches moms how to shop on a budget for healthful foods. She might have to resolve a transportation issue or find day care so a patient can see a doctor.

She found an oversized wheelchair and walker for one very large fellow, and a bedside commode for him. She actually rearranged the furniture in his room to make it easier for him to move around.

“It’s almost like it’s contagious,” she said. “Helping people is contagious.”

One of HealthNet’s aims is to find alternatives to emergency room care for the uninsured.

“The emergency room is the worst place to go for primary care,” said Tami Eldridge, executive director of Cape Fear HealthNet. The emergency room stabilizes patients in crisis, she said. There’s no relationship to a doctor or nurse, no follow-up care.

HealthNet finds appropriate places for those who need health care.

“We’re the door that’s open when all the other doors are closed,” she said.

HealthNet has “navigators” stationed at Department of Social Services offices, helping people find the right places to go with health problems. Various agencies provide different services and their eligibility guidelines also differ. Bradley and the navigators work from inches-thick resource guides.

Demand for services is rising. HealthNet made 50 percent more safety net referrals in the year ended June 30 than it did a year earlier, and the number of people served per month was up 61 percent.

Looking ahead, HealthNet’s providers expect to treat 31 percent more patients in the current fiscal year ending June 30, 2010, with the numbers of uninsured patients rising 59 percent.

HealthNet and its partners need volunteers and monetary donations. They also need help with medicines and medical supplies. One business downsized and donated its office furniture. HealthNet found places for all of it.

Call HealthNet at 798-3594 to find out more, or visit

Si Cantwell: 343-2364

Bradley has formed relationships with health care providers and equipment vendors. She said businesses and individuals are generally glad to help

Cape Fear Area United Way Presents 1st Collaborative Grant Awarded Toward Community Impact Announces Influential Community Leader to Chair 2006 Campaign

Wilmington, NC – Five local human service agencies, in a collaborative effort with 11 other local agencies, received a three-year grant from the Cape Fear Area United Way on Wednesday, May 31, 2006 at the United Way office, Wilmington. This award, totaling approximately $675,000 over three years, is the first step in funding community change and will impact the system of physical and mental health care for those in the Wilmington area.

Presenting this award was Andrew White, President, GE Energy – Nuclear. Mr. White, who has 23 years with GE Energy, has agreed to represent the Cape Fear Area United Way as the new 2006-2007 Campaign Chair.

The five local agencies receiving the award are Access III of the Lower Cape Fear, Inc., Good Shepherd Ministries, New Hope Clinic, Inc. Tileston Outreach Health Clinic, WHAT – Wilmington Health Access for Teens and 11 additional agencies that are part of the Access Committee of the Cape Fear Healthy Carolinians.

This substantial grant will be used by local agencies to increase the capacity of the safety net agencies and create a clearly identifiable, coordinated system of care for the uninsured. The first of its kind under the new CFAUW Community Impact method of funding community change is creating new forms of collaboration among agencies and developing long-range strategies for working together to address some of the most pressing needs in our community.

Cape Fear Area United Way is making necessary investments that will improve the quality of life by identifying and prioritizing needs in our communities, mobilizing people, organizations and financial resources to deliver high impact solutions, and measuring results for continued success.