"It's a perfect example of community-based primary care," said James D. Bernstein, Director of the Office of Rural Health and Resource Development.
The Bakersville Community Medical Clinic, nestled in the Blue Ridge Mountains of western North Carolina, opened its doors in November of 1974, with more than $13,000 raised by more than 2,000 local residents. Bakersville was the fourth primary health center to receive funding and technical assistance through the Office of Rural Health, which provided the clinic with a $25,000 state grant to help start its operations. Initial capital funding also came from the Appalachian Regional Commission.
The Clinic has a long history of caring for its people, a catchment area of about 9,000, mainly in Mitchell and Yancy counties, but stretching west to Unicoi, Tennessee, and south to McDowell County.
The Clinic was initially staffed by Olive Wise, a nurse practitioner who was a nurse midwife in India before obtaining NP training at the University of North Carolina. Dr. Jerry Cade and later Dr. Arch Woodard, joined the clinic in the next few years to form a full-service primary health care center.
The Bakersville Community Medical Clinic remains vibrant today, its three-building complex taking up an entire block in downtown Bakersville, the county seat with about 500 residents and two stoplights. The current medical staff offers a full spectrum of primary care and inpatient care at Blue Ridge Regional, 20 minutes from Bakersville. The clinic also serves as a teaching site for medical students and residents from the Mountain Area Health Scholars Program, sponsored by the Office of Rural Health.
Although the Clinic began with state and other grants, it's community-based Board of Directors set self-sufficiency as a top goal from the beginning and still aims to maintain good service and serve all surrounding residents. Currently, the patient mix at Bakersville is about one-third Medicaid, 18 percent Medicare, and the remainder self-pay and third-party insured. The clinic offers residents with modest incomes to apply for a structured sliding fee scale and helps them keep with up their medical bills.