The Stokes County Health Department is facing declining patient numbers following over a year of not having enough providers, according to Interim Health Director Wanda East.
East told county commissioners Monday that the department had seen a 37 percent decrease in patients in the last fiscal year, largely due to the fact that they only had one full-time provider on staff.
“Our big need right now is a provider,” she said. “Some of our appointments are scheduled so far out that you run the risk of losing patients. If I have a sick child then I can’t wait three to four days to see a doctor. It also puts us at risk of being out of compliance with insurance companies. We run the risk of losing good patients and their revenue.”
East said the county had tried to hire a provider but was having difficulty attracting candidates because of the salary range.
“We do not have a viable candidate at this time,” she said. “We just don’t seem to be getting any applicants here locally. The people here can drive 25 minutes down the road to Winston and make $15,000 more a year.
East said the county had used a contract physician in the 2013-14 fiscal year who had worked two days a week.
“I have investigated contract positions,” she said. “Some of these companies will find you a person, but there is a $15,000 fee before they even walk in the door and then their salary is more comparable to the surrounding counties.”
She said the department really need a family nurse practitioner or a physical assistant so they could see clients of all ages.
East said that despite the staffing difficulties, the health department had had a number of success in the past year.
“Our prenatal program is growing by leaps and bounds and that is also contributing to an increase in our WIC program,” she said, noting that last year the department had enrolled 63 new prenatal patients and delivered 35 babies.
She said the county had also achieved 100 percent immunization rate.
Nicholas Elmes may be reached at 336-591-8191 or on Twitter @NicholasElmes.