U.S. Rep. Mark Walker toured Prospect Hill Community Health Center on Tuesday, April 11, and talked with health-care professionals from Caswell Family Medical Center, Caswell County EMS and EM representatives, the North Carolina Community Health Association, Piedmont Health’s PACE program, Piedmont Health Services and Rely MD, a telemedicine partner of Piedmont Health.
Congressman Walker heard a lot of information from representatives of community health centers, which get a portion of their operating revenue from federal funds. The congressman also took a tour of Prospect Hill’s facility, including the breast-feeding room that allows staff to continue working after pregnancies. He also toured the facility’s dental offices and pharmacy.
“I have been very impressed with the level of care patients receive at community health centers,” Walker said. “And you also save us money in medical care costs.”
The congressman heard about the difficulties with getting veterans enrolled in community health services because of the bureaucracy involved in the Veterans Choice program, an initiative designed to get veterans medical care in facilities other than V.A. Hospitals because of the backlogs in those facilities.
“I don’t think we’ve been able to enroll a veteran yet into this particular program,” said Billy Crumpton, CEO of Caswell Family Medical Center.
Misty Drake, COO of Piedmont Health, agreed with Crumpton’s observations about the current process. “We have enrolled all of our physicians in the Veterans Choice program,” Drake stated. Congressman Walker said he was aware of the problems and had a cadre of caring individuals on his staff who were working on a solution. He asked that people with such problems to contact his Graham office.
The Congressman heard from Caswell County Emergency Management Coordinator Barry Lynch about the need for Homeland Security funding for emergency management offices in rural counties. A bill now working its way through Congress would significantly reduce funding. Lynch said losing the matching funds would be devastating to emergency management.
Brad Jordan, EMS Director, said a proposed telemedicine plan implemented by EMS and Rely M.D. could save tens of thousands of dollars in emergency services annually. The new and innovative plan, which would allow patients to receive medical care without going to an emergency room or hospital, would improve the health outcomes for Caswell residents as well as create a medical home for these patients locally.
The congressman heard from Margaret Smith, a Yanceyville resident and a patient at Prospect Hill, who read him a poem that she proudly wrote about her experience with medical care at Prospect Hill. Smith, said she loves her doctor, Evan Ashkin. “I love Prospect Hill because of the care I get,” she said. “I don’t have to wait a long time. If I’m depressed when I go in, Dr. Ashkin has me leaving laughing. It’s affordable, too.”
During the visit, Congressman Walker was presented with the National Association of Community Health Center’s Defender Award by Toomey and by E. Benjamin Money, president and chief executive officer of the N.C. Association Community Health Center Association. The congressman was given the award, Money explained, because he “recognizes the importance of community health centers and has demonstrated his support for their continued funding.”
As the event wound up, Walker lauded the “commitment and enthusiasm for their job” and added that he was impressed by Piedmont Health’s innovative approaches to health care such as the medical residency partnership with UNC medical school that helps attract top-notch physicians to rural areas and the recent automation of pharmaceutical distribution.