Moore Free Care Clinic gets extra room

 

By Sarah A. Reid
Staff writer


ABERDEEN — The Moore Free Care Clinic is leaving its cramped county-owned digs for a former factory building that has more than quadruple the space and could serve twice as many patients.

The free clinic serves low-income families in Moore County. Since it opened in April 2004, the number of annual patient visits has doubled, but the clinic’s space has not.

“We are victims of our own success, basically,” said Executive Director Laura “T.J.” Tremper-Jones.

The clinic rents a 500-square-foot office from Moore County that abuts the Health Department. The Health Department allows the clinic to use its exam rooms when those rooms are free.

Space, however, is so tight that some of the specialty clinics have been moved off-site. A psychiatry clinic, for example, moved to a room in the Coalition for Human Care in Southern Pines, Tremper-Jones said.

The dental clinic is so busy that established patients are the only ones who are able to get appointments.

“We have other folks who call that just want dental and we can’t take them in. ... We probably have 10 calls a day,” Tremper-Jones said.

Volunteers and paid staff members also have trouble navigating the clinic’s cramped office.

A box of needles and a biohazard container full of discarded pills sits on a filing cabinet outside the executive director’s office.

Sunshine pouring through the windows in her cubicle is blocked by boxes and papers stacked to the ceiling.

“We are stuck,” Tremper-Jones said while looking at the stacks of stuff. “We have no place to go.”

Clinic workers want to move by Christmas to a 3,000-square-foot corner of the former Pride-Trimble factory on Trimble Plant Road in Aberdeen. Rent will stay the same: $1 per year.

The clinic will sit across the street from the Proctor Silex-Hamilton Beach factory. The N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources is conducting pollution testing on that site, said Cathy Akroyd, a spokeswoman for the Solid Waste Section of DENR.

Clinic officials said they checked with state officials to see if the space they will rent is contaminated.

The state is not conducting any investigation on the land where the clinic will relocate, Akroyd said.

“We obviously wouldn’t get involved with it if there were … any environmental questions,” said David Bruton, a retired pediatrician who co-founded the clinic.

Bruton also is the former secretary of the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services.

The clinic would like to hire a second, full-time health care provider and more than double its daily appointments from 12 to 30, Bruton and Tremper-Jones said.

Once the walls are put into the old factory, the new clinic will contain five exam rooms, a multipurpose room, offices for the health care providers and classrooms where diabetes management, nutrition and other classes will be held.

The clinic wants to raise at least $150,000 to $200,000 to outfit its new facility. Some patients have already offered to help.

“We actually have had a lot of patients come forward to say when you are painting or moving or whatever, we want to help,” Tremper-Jones said.

For more about the Moore Free Care Clinic, go to www.moorefreecare.org.

Staff writer Sarah A. Reid can be reached at reids@fayobserver.com or 323-4848, ext. 280.