‘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.





  • Travis

    While we’re finding affordable housing for workers in the restaurant/tourist/merchandise industries, it bears keeping in mind this is a difficult place to find housing for mid-to-upper class range professionals too. I have coworkers who have been without a primary care physician for months and years because their last doctor quit or retired and nobody is taking new patients because they are full.
    So housing for doctors, nurses and PA’s, too, along with their clerical staff.

    Thursday, Jun 16 @ 4:59 pm
  • Cindy

    I am one of these patients and this is absolutely ridiculous! 25 years! They should be ashamed! And critical medication that cannot be refilled. Unacceptable

    Thursday, Jun 16 @ 5:11 pm
  • George Berry

    At the Kitty Hawk Family Medicine Office we recently lost Dr DanielTerryberry a huge loss to northern Dare. Is the relationship between our Doctors & Hospital OK? Have u talked to departing doctors??

    Thursday, Jun 16 @ 5:22 pm
  • Mark Jurkowitz | Outer Banks Voice

    That’s a good suggestion, George.

    Thursday, Jun 16 @ 5:37 pm
  • JN Thomas

    I think it’s really critical to keep the residence of dare county here. Instead of cutting down trees to make parking lots and build salt box houses ,for tourist…..Expanding or building more restaurants and strip malls for tourist. Yes they bring in money. But they’re ruining the place that we call home. They have no respect for the beach, and the houses and condos they rent out for the short time they’re here. It’s sad that we are losing our doctors because of housing or for being overworked and the demand put on them by Vidant (Corporation ) to see more patients in less time. The more houses built – hotels built/ the more visitors ,the more crowds ,the more traffic, the more trash etc. instead of doctors moving it’s now gonna be residence moving, then what will it look like here. Nothing but a tourist trap? This is only the start !!!

    Thursday, Jun 16 @ 6:51 pm
  • Bobby

    Dare isn’t the only county with lack of medicine, Currituck County is in the same fix. The same provider group is down to one doctor and most patients have been given to Nurses and a P.A. The urgent cares are great for tourists and do good work. Most of the permanent residents are retired, and elderly. There is a critical lack of medical care provided for them with many having to go an hour or more for primary care. Dare county and the Hospital group needs to meet quickly and come up with a plan to provide primary care for the community. Currituck county should be included in this effort because most citizens there are in the same trouble. I understand the doctor at the Hospital is gone and your post surgery care will be by a P.A.

    Thursday, Jun 16 @ 8:35 pm
  • Johnny Farrow, MD

    After reading the informative letter written by Michelle Wagner on June 16, 2022 I would like to comment. I would like to make it clear to the now former patients of Outer Banks Family Medicine – Manteo and to the public in general, that in December 2020 I sent an email and also spoke on the telephone with the Vidant Medical Group Practice Manager for the Outer Banks and informed her that I planned to retire from family medicine at the end of December 2021. At that time, I specifically asked if I should write a formal letter announcing my retirement / resignation so that the process of recruiting a physician to fill my vacancy could begin. I was told that a resignation letter was not necessary that far in advance because VMG was already in the process of searching / recruiting physicians for at least two other OBX clinics and VMG would select a provider from the applicant pool to fill my position when I retired.

    In December 2021 I sent a formal 90 day resignation letter as required be my employment contract. On March 3, 2022 I formally retired as a family physician. My retirement was planned and announced to my employer greater than a year in advance.

    It was indeed my privilege to have served as a family physician in my hometown of Manteo for 25 years. Thank you for your trust and confidence in me during that time.

    Johnny Farrow

    Thursday, Jun 16 @ 9:02 pm
  • Sheila Golden

    I am a native of the county of Dare. Somehow the governing bodies let something fall the cracks in health care. I saw this coming a long time ago. When you have to change you primary care Dr. In just under 12 months. You find that you have had 4 PC in that space and time. There no comfort in not being able to build a bond with Doctor. My house is for sale and majority of people inquire to buy #one guestion is where is the nearest reliable health care. How do we answer that question? The Doctors in VA think that OBX hospital is a joke just about like an urgent care facility…. So you don’t even a hospital that people have confidence in. So oh what a tangled web you weave.

    Thursday, Jun 16 @ 10:29 pm
  • Patricia Nash

    Dr.Hunters op-ed is BS..Vidant medical group has always been awful..I knew this Hospital was going to be a problem and it has ..we always have to go to EC to get any real care..they are money hungry and greedy..I wish Sentara would have won the bid for the Hospital in the first place..we could have avoided many years of rotten health care for the OBX..dont get me wrong they have some great Doctors and Nurses ..it is the Vidant group itself..!

    Thursday, Jun 16 @ 10:59 pm
  • Amy Phillips

    Why can’t those in authority (ECU) secure a property and rent to a physician. We have a serious problem that requires urgent solutions.

    Thursday, Jun 16 @ 11:11 pm
  • Tripp Harrison

    The refrain,”Oh, there’s such a nationwide shortage of doctors,” is SO inapplicable to this situation. The Goliath called Vidant got greedy and bet the house that patients would just deal with it. They lost. We all lost.

    Thursday, Jun 16 @ 11:17 pm
  • Jan

    We just took a step back 25 years to were Dare County locals had to drive an hour and half to give birth to our children.
    When is greed going to stop? Listening and helping locals begin?

    Friday, Jun 17 @ 6:53 am
  • Joe Miller

    As a former patient of Dr. Terryberry, I can join the crowd who miss him greatly and now see a PA who is the temporary replacement for his patients. Fortunately, she is a highly qualified medical specialist and competent to care for most conditions that present at a doctor’s office but it will most likely be challenging for her if complex conditions are encountered. Dr. Farrow should be thanked for his dedication of 25 years in this area and his notification to Vidant was either ignored or not aggressively followed up to prevent the situation now happening in the Dare County area.
    Because of our unique situation with housing costs in the OBX, both Vidant and Sentara will have to find a way to supplement incomes of their participating doctors, PAs and nurses. This may have to involve surcharges of some sort but will likely be very complex since so many of us are Medicare patients and Medicare has some fairly strict and and complicated practices for billing etc.
    Unfortunately, many of us may have to move as we are now aging and medical care has become more and more necessary.

    Friday, Jun 17 @ 7:39 am
  • Sally

    The May 23 letter to patients at the Manteo office said “we remain committed to providing access to vital health care services” and that the Outer Banks Family Medicine is “committed to providing you support during this transition.” That letter was disingenious at best. When patients called the phone number provided in the letter, they received no support, only a regurgitation of information contained in the letter. All of us understand national worker shortages, but Outer Banks Family Medicine needs to step up to the plate and shoulder responsibility for ruining our trust that our local healthcare system will be there for us.

    Friday, Jun 17 @ 9:20 am
  • CONLaws

    Thank you Dr. Farrow for providing such good healthcare for the OBX!
    The hospital claiming that they can’t find and keep employees is probably true, but not for the reasons they are stating. If the hospital knew that they couldn’t get healthcare providers, would they continue to invest their money in the Specialty buildings/services that they are constantly building?
    How does one continue to have faith in a HUGE Hospital System that is above reproach such as Vidant/ECU Health for PCP services for a year round population of 38,000..if they can’t provide said PCP services?
    IMO, the money for PCP offices doesn’t compare to the Specialty Office Services offered by the OBH?!?
    The Real Root of the Problem: CON LAWS
    Vidant/ECU is a Huge Hospital Monopoly protected by NC’s Certificate of Need Laws. These laws restrict other medical providers/services into the Hospital’s territory…So to Speak. if free standing Xray services or free standing surgical offices were available, it would drive the healthcare cost DOWN for our area and that would be a threat to the monopoly.
    Always follow the MONEY…it’s NOT about Healthcare…it’s about MONEY.
    Did you know that when Treasurer Dale Folwell was fighting for YOUR RIGHTS to Hospital Transparency that VIDANT/ECU Health rallied all Hospital Lobbyists to storm Raleigh to fight against him????
    Why? Do purchase anything without knowing the price? The ONLY thing you purchase without the knowledge of a price is YOUR HEALTHCARE at Hospitals. Think about that one!!!

    Friday, Jun 17 @ 9:30 am
  • Rosemarie

    My husband and I both got the letter and we’re in shock with no notice. We have gone there over 30years. No consideration was given to anyone who was a certain age, that has a chronic illness that needs Primary Care or who had used this facility for years, yet they are taking on new patients. The doctors didn’t just come in one day and day I am leaving. There was notice. Someone definitely dropped the ball on this one.

    Friday, Jun 17 @ 10:00 am
  • Phoebe

    But let’s move forward with plans to build the $18 million Sound side Event Center in Nags Head. Maybe they can set up a booth for healthcare at one of their events. To be required to drive over an hour for basic medical care is a crime!

    It’s truly sad what has become important to the politicians in Dare County. The voters clearly no longer matter. Let’s fill our hotels / motels, restaurants and roads. Just don’t get sick….

    Friday, Jun 17 @ 10:14 am
  • kathryn

    I do not believe for a minute that the problem with these physicians is housing. I would guess that they did not run patients through the system fast enough for our current corporate medical providers. I know that these doctors already had housing. At least one of those physicians is a lifelong Dare County resident with deep family ties and I know that one other had a home close to the practice.
    It boils down to corporate greed. I will probably ahve to to all the way to Chapel Hill for my medical requirements.
    This county needs to take a very close look at what is going on with our medical care here. Let’s not blame the physicians!

    Friday, Jun 17 @ 11:01 am
  • Dawn

    Responding to George Barry’s comment, there is a problem I think. Without naming who the doctor is, I happen to know that some doctors take issue with not having a say in who is hired and fired that work under the PCP. These doctors should have a say as they are there on the front lines and know quality staff when they work with them. Stop tying our doctors hands and give them what they need to stay in practice here. We are desperate. It was bad enough when Sentara KH closed. Now this?!

    Friday, Jun 17 @ 12:30 pm
  • Jeremy

    Hmmmm I wonder if a truly universal health care system would mitigate this issue.

    Friday, Jun 17 @ 2:07 pm
  • Billnc

    Isn’t the bottom line that there are no new doctors who want to live and practice here?? Not sure how that’s anyone’s “fault”? Am I missing something?

    Friday, Jun 17 @ 2:30 pm
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