It took a “community effort” to create the new Manteo Health Center

By on July 11, 2023

Chair of the Town of Manteo Health Care Task Force Malcolm Fearing describing how it takes a community to create the Manteo Community Health Center. (Photo credit: Kip Tabb/OBV)

Following extensive renovations to what was the Century Link office on Budleigh Street in Manteo, the Manteo Community Health Center opened its doors on Tuesday, July 11. The clinic, a Federally Qualified Health Center (FQHC), will help to alleviate what Malcolm Fearing, Chair of the Town of Manteo Health Care Task Force, described as a crisis in medical care in Dare County.

“If we go back into 2021 or 2022, the country was in a medical crisis [because of] COVID and all else that was going on in medicine. It came to Dare County. It put an enormous strain…on the medical community, staff, and administrators,” Fearing said in his keynote remarks.

Understanding that something had to be done, Fearing told those gathered for the opening that it took everyone working together to create a new medical clinic in downtown Manteo.

“This came about as a community effort,” he said.

The FQHC is a federal program that provides funding for clinics that operate in areas where there are underserved populations. In his remarks at the opening of the clinic, Joe Rockenstein, CEO of Englehard Medical Center, stressed that although funding is provided by the federal government, the employees or contractors of the three clinics in the Englehard system—in Englehard, Ocracoke and Manteo—are not federal employees.

The Englehard Medical Center is a community-based health center that will manage the Manteo clinic.

Rockenstein also described how the federal funding allows a community care clinic like Manteo to offer a different level of medical service.

“The idea was is that we have healthcare the way that it used to be,” he said. “You get to know your providers, you get to know the people and the staff that work here. The idea is that we spend the time that’s required to get to know you as a person, so that the healthcare you get is meaningful.”

Although a FQHC clinic is designed to help medically underserved communities, the services it provides are available to anyone in the community.

“We serve everyone. Whether you’ve got commercial insurance, have no insurance, Medicaid, Medicare, it matters not…We are a facility that doesn’t have any barriers to care,” Rockenstein said.

In an interview after the clinic opened, Rockenstein explained more fully what it means to operate a FQHC clinic.

Asked by the Voice if the federal funding enables caregivers at the health center to spend more time with patients than is typical in a medical setting, Rockenstein said, “Yes, that is absolutely right. It really gives us the opportunity to treat…the whole person. If you can do that, you can get to the root of the problem. Sometimes it’s well beyond what you’re seeing on bloodwork or an EEG or anything like that. That really enables us to bring that level of quality to the patient,” he said.

Dr. Jennifer Harrison will be the clinic’s physician and for her, the type of one-on-one patient care the Manteo Community Clinic will be able to offer is what she has always wanted to provide.

“I love it,” she told the Voice after the opening. “I think that when family primary care is done well, then we can avoid heart attacks and avoid diabetes, and it will help avoid kidney disease. I believe it’s the foundation of keeping people healthy and in a good life.”

In addition to medical services, the Manteo Community Health Center will be offering an onsite pharmacy, tele-mental health services and will be working with the Community Health Clinic of Dare County to provide dental services.



  • phoebe

    No…It actually took an “uproar” from the entire OBX Community to create this medical center. And only after a “crisis” happened with the closing of the facility in Manteo, which threw over 2,400 locals to the streets . The “powers that be” should have seen this coming prior to the closing of the former facility. To try and blame this on Covid is ridiculous. The problem of proper medical care on the OBX has existed for quite some time. The problem STILL exists. This new facility will help some… If you can actually get an appointment. More action and progress must mean there’s an election on the horizon. That’s usually the only thing that brings about serious change. That’s when the politicians actually start listening to what the locals NEED and want.

    Also, a big shout out to the Outer Banks Voice for covering this story and keeping this issue on the front page. I hope you will continue to cover the continuing lack of quality medical care for all that live here.

    Thursday, Jul 13 @ 3:13 pm
  • Sarah

    Actually, Malcolm Fearing was the one that came to the Manteo Commissioners and asked them to do something. Vidant lost its doctors and threw all of us locals out on the street. Like you said, there has been a problem for quite some time but Manteo was the only town that stepped up and did something about it. Stop being so negative and be happy that we got this small win. Yes, there is still more progress that needs to be made but healthcare is a NATIONAL problem not just an OBX problem. I was born at the Hospital in Elizabeth City because there was no hospital here when I was born. So the OBX has made progress when it comes to health care and we will continue to make progress.

    Friday, Jul 14 @ 10:12 am
  • phoebe

    If you consider Vidant or the fact that a hospital was finally built a good thing, that’s truly sad. Vidant lost its doctors due to what was being expected of them. Patients no longer being treated as people. Just another number! Not being negative, just honest. The Outer Banks has suffered for many, many years in quality medical care… and continues to do so. The new clinic in Manteo is only a “band aid” to the ever growing population. Also to the “older” growing population on the beach.

    Have you tried to make an appointment lately where you actually see a doctor… And NOT an NP?

    Sunday, Jul 16 @ 6:02 pm
  • Sarah

    So you’re saying that we shouldn’t have a hospital, got it. The clinic in Manteo actually treats people as they should be treated. Yes, I have seen an actual doctor at the new facility in Manteo. The problem lies with the fact that Vidant has a monopoly on healthcare here so they do as they please. This new clinic is not Vidant and change has to begin somewhere when it comes to helping the people of this community. Organizations like SURF and Englehard Medical Center have taken the first steps in showing that other medical providers can come here and have thriving practices.

    I’m not saying that this is the end all be all but it is nice to see progress and know that we are going in the right direction. Yes, this has been a slow and steady process but we are going forward not backward. If you are not going to be a part of the solution (i.e. reaching out to other medical institutions like UNC or DUKE, recruiting doctors to come here and open private practices, or trying to acquire grants to get funding to help with the healthcare crisis) then you can continue to be “outraged that more is not being done” while the rest of us behind the scenes continue to work to expand healthcare opportunities here on the Outer Banks.

    Wednesday, Jul 26 @ 2:42 pm