01/26/06 — WATCH van isn't taking any new patients for now

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WATCH van isn't taking any new patients for now

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on January 26, 2006 1:56 PM

Working beyond capacity for some time, the WATCH program is not accepting any new patients. At least for right now.

At Wednesday's board meeting of WATCH, which stands for the Wayne Action Teams for Community Health, director Sissy Lee-Elmore said the decision was made to make sure the existing patient load could be served.

"If they take on any more new ones, we can't see the ones we have now," she said.

The number of patients seen on the WATCH mobile unit, which routinely travels around the county to provide medical services to the indigent and others without health insurance, has grown rapidly since the program was launched in August 2000. According to its quarterly report, as of December 2005, WATCH had registered 7,032 unduplicated patients and provided 31,487 patient visits.

Mrs. Lee-Elmore also announced the recent resignation of a physician assistant on loan from Snow Hill Medical Center, leaving the position in limbo due to federal budget cuts. The move means that WATCH is staffed by one mid-level provider and an array of volunteers, while the patient load continues to climb.

Any new patients are being referred to Goshen Medical, which recently opened an office in Goldsboro, she said.

"They're already kind of booked," Mrs. Lee-Elmore noted, and said they are seeing 10 to 11 patients a day as compared with the 30 seen on the WATCH unit. Payment at Goshen is also different, she said, explaining that it is based on a sliding fee scale.

"Their appointment times are four to five days out. We still will take walk-ins. But the bottom line is we're not taking new appointments. We just can't do it right now," she said.

"Underline 'right now,'" added William Paugh, board member as well as president and chief executive officer of Wayne Memorial Hospital. "We're saturated right now. We're doing everything we can. At this point, we're still providing plenty of service. (But) at this point, it's just for our regular patients."