09/19/13 — Clinic welcomes more local patients

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Clinic welcomes more local patients

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on September 19, 2013 1:46 PM

WATCH, the free clinic that provides health care services for the county's uninsured population, has hired a new nurse practitioner and is again accepting new patients.

Wayne Action Teams for Community Health, introduced in Wayne County in 2000, is most visible through its mobile van that travels the area. A stationary clinic, at the YMCA, was added in 2009.

The clinic's board of directors hired nurse practitioner Amy Norbury last month. She will be assigned to the mobile unit.

Originally from Minnesota, Mrs. Norbury relocated to Greenville for her husband's job and learned about the WATCH opening through the N.C. Office of Rural Health. She previously worked at the Bernstein Community Health Center in Greenville, similar in scope except it is not mobile, she said.

"I enjoy community health, always have," she said. "It's just the autonomy, the concept of taking the clinic to the people."

She is also bilingual, speaking Spanish, which could benefit that segment of the population. Currently, WATCH rolls estimate the percentage of Hispanics served at between 6 and 8 percent, Executive Director Sissy Lee-Elmore said.

Mrs. Lee-Elmore has been with WATCH since the inception. She said she has appreciated the community support for the endeavor, as well as the financial backing that has come its way. It has benefited from grant money, such as a recent community health grant from the state for $150,000 for three years to cover salaries for a medical office assistant and front office clerk, as well as local funding sources.

"I'm grateful for the city and county's help financially and the hospital," she said.

"And also the doctors that come in and share their time," Mrs. Norbury said.

"(We received) $220,000 from the county, $20,000 from the city and the hospital does about $200,000," Mrs. Lee-Elmore said. "The Prescription Assistance Program is still going strong. I think we did $1.6 million and a half-million (dollars) in free labs from Quest (Diagnostics)."

The fortification has resulted in being able to sustain a full staff at both the YMCA and on the mobile unit. This year, they also converted to electronic records, which should help in even better tracking of program outcomes, Mrs. Lee-Elmore said.

And once again, they are able to accept new patients. That has not always been the case over the years. Several times officials have had to cut back on taking new patients.

In the current climate, even those who are employed might lack health insurance, Mrs. Lee-Elmore said, and the county's health concerns reflect what is being seen in other parts of the county, particularly in cases of hypertension, diabetes and obesity.

Mrs. Norbury said her role as nurse practitioner is a rewarding one, even when it means seeing patients in challenging situations.

"We can bring them back more frequently and have that same conversation over a couple of visits," she said. "I think it's that you can provide the biggest impact with simple changes and education.

"And the appreciation -- they appreciate the education and sitting down and looking at things with them."

On average, the WATCH clinic is busy five days a week, seeing about 25 patients a day, Mrs. Lee-Elmore said.

But despite the free service option, there is a concern about the no-show rate, which hovers around 20 percent.

"The people that don't come for their appointment are taking an appointment that somebody else could use," she said.

After 13 years serving Wayne County, WATCH is nearing the 10,000-patient-visits mark.

"We have 96,379 visits and 11,543 unduplicated patients," Mrs. Lee-Elmore said. "And the only criteria is to be uninsured and be a resident of Wayne County."

Perhaps its biggest contribution, though, comes through personal testimonials from those diagnosed or redirected toward better health.

"I have seen people who were helped five years ago and come back just to say they're grateful," Mrs. Norbury said.

"It's life-changing for people," Mrs. Lee-Elmore said.