Healthcare Connection

Published 8:41 am Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Submitted by Lisa Newsome

Vidant R-CHospital

AHOSKIE – If healthcare reform is about people receiving affordable healthcare, then Hertford County is ahead of the game with a new program called Hertford Health Access.

“We are connecting people with chronic disease who are uninsured, underinsured, or not eligible for NC Medicaid to the medical care they need, whether it’s for primary healthcare such as check-ups and immunizations, or for care by a specialist, such as a cardiologist or neurologist,” states Weyling White, the new Executive Director of Hertford Health Access (HHA).  “This care is provided at a low affordable cost by primary care physicians and specialists in Hertford County.”

“Most people in our county today die from chronic diseases that could have been prevented if they had received the preventive healthcare they needed,” continues White, who is originally from Ahoskie and has a master’s in business degree in healthcare management. “Our goal is to enroll residents of Hertford County in Hertford Health Access so they can have ‘access’ to the comprehensive healthcare they need.”

Hertford Health Access, which is based at Roanoke-Chowan Community Health Center, is funded through a grant from The Duke Endowment, a private foundation in Charlotte “that strengthens communities in North Carolina and South Carolina by nurturing children, promoting health, educating minds and enriching spirits.”

“Hertford Health Access is a remarkable tool to extend the medical home for individuals needing specialty care.  Our community of medical specialists in Hertford County has responded enthusiastically,” said Kim Schwartz, CEO and executive director or Roanoke-Chowan Community Health Center. “RCCHC is very pleased to house this incredible network.”

As of the first week of September, staff began enrolling participants who have a chronic disease, such as heart disease, diabetes, or hypertension, and who meet the income requirement of at or below 200% below the federal poverty level, are under-insured, or not have health insurance, Medicaid or Medicare.

Sonya Ashe, the new Hertford Health Access Patient Navigator, has a bachelor’s degree in social work. There are plans to employ a second licensed social worker to provide case management services for patients including two days a week in the cancer care center at the hospital.

“We are enrolling community members into Hertford Health Access at our three RCCHC sites in Ahoskie, Murfreesboro, and Colerain, as well as at our mobile site at Murfreesboro Baptist Church Food Bank on the second Tuesday of each month,” says Ashe.  “We will be at the Atlantic District Fair and other health fairs throughout the year.  We also are planning faith-based outreach to churches in the area.”

“We will link participants to resources that will educate them about the new health insurance exchange program starting in the fall as part of the Affordable Care Act,” says White.

When participants enroll in the HHA network, they are immediately referred to a primary medical care home if they do not have a regular doctor. If a physician refers a participant to a specialist, that care is provided by physicians who are part of the network.  Some specialty physicians in the area have agreed to donate time and services to the program, a benefit for the patients who would not otherwise receive these services.

“We follow up on each participant in the community to make sure they are keeping their appointments and are referred to other services, such as support groups, chronic disease programs, food banks, and social services for any assistance they may need,” says Ashe.

The program was developed by a group of healthcare and community organizations that came together in January of 2011 to form the Hertford Health Maintenance Alliance.  The Alliance’s purpose is “to create a pathway to health and education for uninsured and underinsured residents of Hertford County and to improve health outcomes.”

“Our goal is to improve the health and quality of life for uninsured and underinsured low income people living in Hertford County,” states Sue Lassiter, president of Vidant Roanoke-Chowan Hospital and chairperson of Hertford Health Maintenance Alliance. “By enrolling in Hertford Health Access, uninsured patients will have increased access to the preventive, primary, and specialty healthcare they need.”

Members of Hertford Health Maintenance Alliance are Hertford County Public Schools, Choanoke Area Development Association (CADA), Chowan University, East Carolina Behavioral Health-LME, Herford County Cooperative Extension, Hertford County Department of Social Services, Hertford County Office of Aging, Hertford County Public Health Authority, Pregnancy Care Center of Ahoskie, Inc., Roanoke-Chowan Community Health Center and Vidant Roanoke-Chowan Hospital.

For questions or more information about how to enroll in Hertford Health Access, contact Weyling White at (252) 209-0237, ext. 7138 or Email: