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Eastern North Carolina Hospitals Expand Services to Target Diverse Population

Learn how hospitals in Eastern North Carolina have developed a strong network of facilities and invested in technology to meet the needs of residents.

By Heather R. Johnson on September 2, 2016

Greenville, NC
Greenville / Courtesy of Cliff Hollis

Eastern North Carolina residents can count on abundant, quality health care. More than a dozen hospitals serve the region, whose population numbers about 1.4 million people.

As the flagship hospital associated with the nationally ranked Brody School of Medicine at East Carolina University (ECU), Vidant Medical Center in Greenville provides quality care, medical research and physician training. Its parent company, Vidant Health, serves 29 counties with eight hospitals and several physician practices throughout the region. Elizabeth City, Morehead City, Jacksonville, Rocky Mount, Wilson and other nearby towns also have hospitals or medical systems right in their back yard. To cater to an evolving population’s needs, many of these facilities have expanded, opened satellite care centers, and otherwise found ways to treat patients close to home. This often means reaching patients in rural areas. ECU’s School of Dental Medicine, for one, brought needed dental services to eight underserved communities between Ahoskie and Sylva.

“We wanted to go where there was a lot of need, but not a lot of dentists,” says Gregory Chadwick, DDS, dean of the ECU School of Dental Medicine. “Over time, we help them improve their oral health.”

This is especially critical for young children who may struggle to learn as a result of poor dental health. The Ahoskie center works in tandem with the Roanoke Chowan Community Health Center across the street.

“If a patient doesn’t have a primary care provider, we get them registered with the community health center,” Chadwick says. “Likewise, if a health center patient hasn’t seen a dentist for a while, they send them to us. We work together to deliver primary health care.”

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Comprehensive Care

Lenoir Memorial Hospital near the burgeoning Global TransPark provides a range of services to a challenging population. According to a 2013 report from the hospital, obesity affects 32 percent of adults, and 17 percent are uninsured. Diabetes, high blood pressure, and smoking-related illnesses are common concerns.

Lenoir Memorial Hospital treats “everyone that comes through the door,” says marketing coordinator Barbara LaRoque. The not-for-profit hospital, which entered into a management services agreement with UNC Health Care this year, offers several educational programs, screenings, seminars and a wellness center to help improve the health of area residents.

To meet the increased demand for heart services, Lenoir Memorial recently opened the McCain Heart Center, which provides cardiac catheterization, stents, and pre- and post-recovery for heart patients. Lenoir Memorial also plans to install the Varian TrueBeam Linear Accelerator, an advanced radiation therapy machine, in its Cancer Center. This allows the center to provide the highest quality of care with the latest equipment. Responding to the growing need for cancer care, Vidant Medical Center plans a 2018 opening for a $200 million, six-story, 96-bed cancer center. The new center will allow Vidant Medical Center to consolidate its services, provide inpatient and outpatient treatment, and, importantly, to focus on early detection.

“We were observing, despite having access to health care through a variety of hospitals, people with advanced stages of cancer at the time of diagnosis,” says Brian Floyd, president of Vidant Medical Center. “This center will have the advanced capabilities and therapies to treat cancer patients, plus house the physicians and professors that put together care plans.”

Carteret Health Care in Morehead City expanded its facilities to include a multi-disciplinary cancer center that allows the hospital to combine medical and radiation oncology in one building. Onslow Memorial Hospital, in Jacksonville, recently invested in 3D mammography, which helps doctors find more invasive cancers. Other health-care providers continue to offer quality services. Halifax Regional Medical Center, with its new cardiac catheterization lab, serves residentsin  Halifax and Northampton counties. Other regional spots include Sentara Albemarle Medical Center in Elizabeth City and Wilson Medical Center. Washington County Hospital in Plymouth and Martin General Hospital in Williamston both provide critical care, while the Naval Hospital Camp Lejeune and the Greenville VA Health Care Center serve the region’s growing veteran population.

ECU’s College of Nursing plans to implement an interprofessional education model focusing on geriatric care thanks to a three-year $2.5 million grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. As community needs change, Eastern North Carolina’s health-care sector continues to evolve and expand. Floyd speaks for many facilities when he explains Vidant Medical Center’s ongoing growth.

“We’re chasing the needs of the region,” he says. “We have to do this because the people count on us.”

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