10/29/09 — WATCH eyes five-year plan for expansion

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WATCH eyes five-year plan for expansion

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on October 29, 2009 1:46 PM

Wayne Action Teams for Community Health has continued to add more and more patients since opening a second clinic, with officials now introducing a five-year plan for future expansion.

Sissy Lee-Elmore, executive director, updated the organization's board Wednesday.

Family nurse practitioner Ann King continues to provide medical services on the mobile medical unit. Kathy Johnson, the program's original family nurse practitioner, returned to the area over the summer to operate WATCH's second clinic, introduced at the Family YMCA.

With two locations, productivity and patient satisfaction are "through the roof," Mrs. Lee-Elmore said.

"In July, we had 621 patient visits, in August, 860, and in September, 984," she said. "We have accepted 61 new patients in July, 112 in August and 135 in September."

The YMCA clinic is open five days a week, by appointment only. The mobile van accepts appointments and walk-ins.

In addition to Ms. Johnson, the program has two other new hires -- Terry Davis, pharmaceutical agent, and Sheri Fine, nurse aide/administrative assistant -- which has helped with the increase in volume, Mrs. Lee-Elmore said.

"We had trouble keeping up with phone lines and the number of calls coming in," she said. "Now we have got somebody that spends a lot of time taking messages and making appointments."

A five-year plan for WATCH was also recently completed, which she distributed to the board.

"WATCH has, since the beginning, about 12 years ago, not really had a formal long-range plan," she said. "We increased capacity when we had the opportunity, based on finances. When we applied to United Way, they require a five-year plan."

The bulk of the plan seeks to continue in the direction that has proven so successful since its inception -- to respond to the health care needs of the uninsured in the community. As of September, the program has logged 53,113 patient visits.

The plan calls for ongoing expansion of the program, increasing the number of new patients accepted, while endeavoring to decrease wait time for new patient appointments and scheduling for established patients; pursuing grants and other funding for operations and programs; continuing to work on teen pregnancy prevention, substance abuse prevention and healthy behaviors; and increasing community awareness, attracting more volunteers, community dollars and physicians.

WATCH will also address requirements of the N.C. Association of Free Clinics toward becoming an accredited free clinic by the fall of 2010.

The plan is ambitious, and will require hard work and "heavy-hitting finan-ces," board member Murray Porter said.

"Five years is a long time," he said. "We can certainly try. It's going to take a lot of money."

The plan could be likened to a "moving target," something to aim toward, board member Jack Best said.

Board member and Wayne Memorial Hospital CEO William Paugh raised the question about the current uncertainty of health care reform, as well as the issue of taking care of the uninsured.

"Even though the physicians take Medicare and Medicaid, you become a provider for the underinsured," Mrs. Lee-Elmore said.

"I agree wholeheartedly but it will definitely be a shift," Paugh said.

"Still, you also have illegal immigrants," Best said. "One way or the other, WATCH is still going to be very important."