Ocracoke Health Center seeks a new doctor

By on September 6, 2022

Dr. Erin Baker outside the Ocracoke Health Center. (Photo: C. Leinbach/Ocracoke Observer)

A community potluck dinner for Dr. Erin Baker will be held at 6 p.m. on Wednesday, Sept. 14, in the Berkley Barn.

(Voice Editor’s Note: As Dr. Erin Baker prepares to begin work the Outer Banks Family Medical Practice, here is a perspective from the Outer Banks community she is leaving.) 
By TL Grace West | Ocracoke Observer

Imagine experiencing Ocracoke for the first time with a medical degree and a 10-month-old daughter, arriving to interview for the sole doctor position at the Ocracoke Health Center.

That is what Dr. Erin Baker did 12 years ago, fresh from completing her medical school and residency training in general family medicine.

What brought her here? Baker wanted to be closer to her family who had moved to Manteo (about two and a half hours from the island). Now it is time again for her to be even closer to her mother and move to Manteo and join the Outer Banks Family Medical Practice.

Her last day serving Ocracoke will be Sept. 21 and a community potluck dinner for her will be held at 6 p.m. on Wednesday, Sept. 14, in the Berkley Barn.

These 12 years have been a win-win for both Baker and the Ocracoke community.

“Having up-to-date skills from just completing my training was extremely beneficial to meet the varying medical needs of the residents and visitors of the island,” Baker said about her arrival on the island. “I am also grateful for how this community continued to train me in so many ways and extended love even in the hard times.”

Although all change can be challenging and bumpy, Baker is confident the transition to a new doctor will be fine. “Largely because the mission and vision for the health center is clear, and the staff are absolutely wonderful,” she said.  That mission stresses that quality, affordable care will be provided for residents and visitors regardless of their ability to pay.

Many people agree with former Hyde County Commissioner Tom Pahl’s assessment. “During Hurricane Dorian recovery, Dr. Baker was a key member of the recovery team during an extremely challenging time,” he said.

Baker herself did not relish the aftermath of Dorian. With the center damaged and undergoing repairs, she and her staff operated out of temporary modular units installed by the state EMS. “That was a challenge,” she said, noting that the temporary setup had no bathrooms or running water. “It was third world.”

Sue Pentz, chair of the center’s board of directors and co-proprietor of the Harborside Motel, remembers checking on Baker during that tumultuous time and seeing her smile and say, “I’m fine; we’re doing what we’re supposed to be doing.”

Many people have commented on how remarkably personable Baker is while still maintaining professionalism.

Following Hurricane Dorian, Ocracoke went directly into dealing with an unprecedented pandemic that affected every aspect of life on the island. Again, Baker and her staff played a key part in the ongoing response to COVID-19.

Again and again, Baker rose to the occasion of the unique aspects of the only medical facility on the island.

Some of her decisions included when to send patients on a three-hour ambulance ride to the nearest hospital in Nags Head or call the helicopter medical transport for a 45-minute flight to regional hospitals.

Dr. Baker on her way to visit another patient in the Ocracoke Health Center. Photo: C. Leinbach/Ocracoke Observer

Pentz stressed how Baker keeps the big picture in mind: that of providing quality care.

When I talked with various island residents, their feedback included comments about how they valued Baker’s ability to persist until a clear diagnosis was reached; the way she says, “There is no shame in taking needed medicine”; her sense of humor; her concern for the caregiver as well as the patient; the way she allowed time for questions; her eye contact; and her willingness to be direct about planning ahead for future care, and her skill and compassion toward patients of all ages.

Health Center CEO Joe Rockenstein and the board of directors are conducting a search for a medical provider who will be a good fit for the unique needs of Ocracoke.

A replacement has not been named as of press time, but health care will be provided by Angela Miller, a licensed nurse practitioner who joined the staff in October, and Jolene Jernigan, also licensed nurse practitioner, who has been a health center staff member for several years.

Both practitioners can write prescriptions and are experienced health providers.

In addition to the health center, medical care is provided by the Hyde County EMS 24/7 by calling 911.

Also, Gail Covington, FNP (certified family nurse practitioner), provides health care consultations and treatment on Ocracoke and Hatteras through her Island Mobile Medical Care. Call 252-996-0511.

Noteworthy, especially since we are in the midst of hurricane season, is that health care is not readily available if there’s a hurricane.

Hyde County requires EMS to evacuate for mandatory evacuations (though not for visitor-only evacuations), and although the health center board does not require staff to evacuate, most staff do leave the island.

Baker is confident that Ocracoke will fare well as she moves on to another chapter.

“This is not my center,” she said. “It is the Ocracoke Health Center and positive changes are ahead, especially with a pharmacy that will serve the general public aiming to open late spring or early summer 2023.”

For more from the Ocracoke Observer visit ocracokeobserver.com


Barnhill Building Group has been selected as the Construction Manager @ Risk by the College of the Albemarle and is seeking to pre-qualify construction trade contractors to submit bids for the furnishing labor, materials, equipment, and tools for the new College of The Albemarle – Allied Health Sciences Simulation Lab (COA Health Sciences) located in Elizabeth City, NC. Please note: Only subcontractors who have been prequalified by Barnhill will be able to submit a Bid.

The project consists of the new construction of a 38,000-sf, 2-story expansion to the existing Owens Health Sciences Center and will house classrooms, labs, and a simulation lab. The site is just over just over 4.5 acres and is located on an active campus. This new construction will be a steel structure with a brick and metal panel veneer, curtainwall, and storefront glazing with a PVC roof membrane.

Principal trade and specialty contractors are solicited for the following Bid Packages:

BP0100: General Trades

BP0105: Final Cleaning

BP0390: Turnkey Concrete

BP0400: Turnkey Masonry

BP0500: Structural Steel & Misc. Steel

BP0740: Roofing

BP0750: Metal Panels

BP0790: Caulking / Caulking

BP0800: Turnkey Doors/Frames/Hardware

BP0840: Glass & Glazing

BP0925: Drywall

BP0960: Resilient Flooring

BP0980: Acoustical Ceilings

BP0990: Painting & Wallcovering

BP1005: Toilet Specialties / Accessories / Division 10

BP1010: Signage

BP1098: Demountable Partitions

BP1230: Finish Carpentry and Casework

BP1250: Window Treatment

BP1400: Elevators

BP2100: Fire Protection

BP2200: Plumbing

BP2300: HVAC

BP2600: Turnkey Electrical

BP3100: Turnkey Sitework

BP3290: Landscaping

Packages may be added and/or deleted at the discretion of the Construction Manager. Historically underutilized business firms are encouraged to complete participation submittals.

HUB/MWBE OUTREACH MEETING: Barnhill Building Group will be conducting a HUB/MWBE Informational Session. You are encouraged to attend the following session to learn more about project participation opportunities available to you. These seminars will help to: Learn about project and scope; Inform and train Minority/HUB contractors in preparation for bidding this project; Assist in registration on the State of North Carolina Vendor link; Stimulate opportunities for Networking with other firms. Location and time TBD. Please visit our planroom at https://app.buildingconnected.com/public/54da832ce3edb5050017438b for more information.

Interested contractors should submit their completed prequalification submittals, by July 22, 2024, to Meredith Terrell at mterrell@barnhillcontracting.com or hardcopies can be mailed to Barnhill Contracting Company PO Box 31765 Raleigh, NC 27622 (4325 Pleasant Valley Road, NC 27612).


Comments are closed.