‘When I read that letter…I was in shock’

By on June 16, 2022

Manteo medical practice to no longer provide care to several thousand patients

Manteo residents John and Pam Buscemi have been patients at what is now Outer Banks Family Medicine-Manteo for the past 35 years. But as of June 23, they and more than 2,400 other patients currently being served at the practice will be forced to find a new primary care physician.

The Buscemis and many of the affected patients were notified in a May 23 letter from the Outer Banks Medical Group that the two temporary providers at the Manteo practice would not be renewing their contracts and therefore, the practice would no longer be able to provide them care. The Outer Banks Medical Group is part of the Outer Banks Hospital, a partnership between ECU Health (formerly Vidant) and Chesapeake Regional Healthcare.

The temporary providers were covering patients previously cared for by Dr. Johnny Farrow, Dr. Jennifer Harrison and Dr. Warren Blackburn. Farrow and Harrison are now working at the newly opened Surf Urgent Care in Kill Devil Hills, and Blackburn has since retired.

That May 23 announcement left the many affected patients searching for care. “We had to scramble to find a doctor,” explained John Buscemi, adding that they eventually found one in Creswell, N.C. From their home, it’s just shy of an hour’s drive.

Added Pam Buscemi: “It’s just a very sad situation considering we live in Dare County, one of the richest counties in North Carolina, and our hospital system cannot provide a doctor…I don’t get it.”

A week ago, Dr. Gary Hunter, chief of staff at the Outer Banks Hospital penned an op-ed column calling the shortage of healthcare providers a “crisis,” and discussing the “unique challenges” facing the Outer Banks.

“When you couple the growing need with both the high cost of living and the serious lack of housing on the Outer Banks, it underscores the difficulty of attracting and retaining both permanent and temporary physicians, nurses and technicians,” he wrote. “These are complicated issues with no quick or easy solutions.”

In an email to the Voice, Outer Banks Hospital Senior Administrator of Operations Amy Montgomery stated that, “According to the Association of American Medical Colleges there will be an estimated shortage of between 37,800 and 124,000 physicians across the nation by 2034…As a result, health systems are competing for a small pool of providers or are having to rely on temporary contracted healthcare workers, which is not sustainable.”

Montgomery added that “The Outer Banks Medical Group is doing everything we can to restore and even expand primary care access locally. It will take time.”

In the May 23 letter, the patients at the Manteo practice were also informed that no other providers with the Outer Banks Medical Group were accepting new patients. Included in the letter was a list of seven medical offices that were accepting new patients — in Moyock, Elizabeth City, Plymouth, Edenton and Camden.

For the patients interviewed by the Voice, it hasn’t been an easy task finding a primary care physician, and in most cases, they will need to travel an hour or more to see their doctor.

Some of those who spoke to the Voice have found providers, some are still looking, and some are waiting to hear if other out-of-town providers will accept them as patients pending a review of their medical records.

For Wanchese resident Courtney Quillin, a former patient of Dr. Farrow, a new primary care physician for her and her son will mean a lengthy trip to Elizabeth City, where she has been able to secure a provider.

“When I read that letter, to be honest, I was in shock,” Quillin recounted. “And I just think how sad it is for the elderly who are really really sick and need the care…how are they going to get to Elizabeth City, most of them don’t even have cars at this point. So it’s definitely a mess.”

One patient interviewed by the Voice, who is in his 80s and asked not to be identified, was able to find a doctor in Moyock, but can’t be seen until November. “That’s not a good thing,” he said, “that’s a chore just to go to see your doctor.”

Manteo resident B.B. Walden, another affected patient, said she felt like she was “just throwing a dart” when it came to her search for a new primary care physician. “It’s just rather shocking,” she said, adding that she was lucky enough to be able to find two doctors [in Elizabeth City] who were accepting new patients.

“At least I have an appointment and I’m capable of doing it,” Walden said. “For a lot of people it’s a big deal to get there. There are people, who as of June 23, won’t even be able to get a prescription filled anymore and for some people who don’t have any recourse, it’s just really distressing.”

Walden also voiced concern about the inadequate medical care coupled with the growing population on the Outer Banks. “More and more development, affordable housing, a new college, but not anywhere near enough basic medical infrastructure,” she asserted. “And it seems one will have to travel quite far to find a medical practice that will accept new patients.”

Manteo resident Donnamae Morrisette is still uncertain about who will be the primary care provider for her mother, who she said is in poor health and is currently a patient of Outer Banks Family Medicine-Manteo. While Morrisette has had her mother’s and stepfather’s medical records transferred to Chesapeake Regional Medical Care, her care isn’t guaranteed pending the review of their records.

As for the number of people affected by the provider shortage at the Manteo practice, Morrissette said, “It’s a lot of people…we are a remote island and an hour to an hour and a half away from the physicians they’re recommending people call. And there is a mad dash to secure them, so they’re overwhelmed.”

Morrisette has contacted Outer Banks Hospital officials as well as county commissioners in the hope of organizing a community forum on the state of healthcare in Dare County. But so far, she said, no one has been receptive to the idea.

 

 

 




Comments

  • Frank Moore

    Thank you Dr. Farrow for your input in this issue so the blame will not be put on you in any way. I have heard from others exactly how you advised the hospital authority of your retirement and the time line that you stated. The search for your replacement should have begun the day after you submitted your letter of resignation. I am 77 years old and unable to travel the distances to see a doctor for a head cold, so I will be using the emergency room at the hospital as my GP. Again thank you Dr farrow for your years of keeping me alive, may God bless you.

    Friday, Jun 17 @ 3:32 pm
  • Nosey OBXer

    So many doctors come and go on the Outer Banks. The doctors who chose to stay years ago are now retiring after 30 or more years of service. I thank them for serving this great community. Putting in 80 hours a week away from their families to take care of us. It really is a calling.
    Surf pediatrics has expanded it’s family practice in Kitty Hawk , maybe they are taking new patients? Always remember to be kind a humble and patient with everyone especially over worked health care humans.
    Perhaps our congressman should go back to urology since there is a shortage of doctors.

    Friday, Jun 17 @ 4:03 pm
  • Sally

    “Walgreens will be the first national pharmacy chain to offer full-service doctor’s offices co-located at its stores at a large scale, following a highly successful trial begun last year, according to the company.” https://www.fiercehealthcare.com/practices/walgreens-plans-to-open-up-to-700-primary-care-clinics-as-part-1b-investment-villagemd

    Friday, Jun 17 @ 4:15 pm
  • Lemonshirt

    Throwing rocks at TOBH or Vidant is miss-use of good rocks. Those establishments benefit greatly from having local family care practitioners near by. And in fact, have stepped up to fund numerous local practices. CON regulations do not prevent any willing licensed physician from hanging out a shingle. But the realities and complexities of insurance reimbursement, and the litigious nature of our society preclude most from trying it. No longer can doctors make house calls with their horse/buggy and get paid in eggs.

    Friday, Jun 17 @ 4:25 pm
  • Lisa

    My disabled neighbor is one of the patients and got a physician in Moyock but can’t get a appointment until December. I asked if she had enough of her existing prescriptions to get that far. And she’s been using Dare County Tranpotion to get her to and from her appointments, is Dare Co. Tranpotion going to still get her to and from? Disabled and on a fixed income. It’s very frustrating.

    Friday, Jun 17 @ 10:53 pm
  • Nancy

    There no easy answers to this nationwide shortage which is likely to get worse. I think a forum is a good idea to be an advocate for patients. After some research, I think pointing fingers at this point is not helpful. There is no magic bullet. Open communication is critical. Managing expectations includes the facts. Let me know if I could be of help.

    Sunday, Jun 19 @ 1:17 pm
  • Cindy Coughlan

    I believe part of the problem is politics. We could have had a great situation with Sentara coming in but they are based in VA so I feel sure that’s why that didn’t happen. Vidant was a poor answer to the needs of our community. Our hospital could be so much more with a better reputation than it currently has. Get rid of the egos and concentrate on the people’s needs in our community. Even with Chesapeake being a partner it’s still mostly controlled by Vidant. I mean, ECU Health. Ridiculous. Get someone to Lower Currituck! It’s better than nothing at all. It’s going to explode with growth there and already is. I pray the situation is gets resolved sooner than later. If they want to put a museum it gets done in record time. Rant over.

    Tuesday, Jun 21 @ 9:14 am