Reprinted with permission of The Pilot

Moore Free Care Clinic Plans New Facility in Southern Pines

BY CLAUDIA WATSON: SPECIAL TO THE PILOT

The Moore Free Care Clinic (MFCC) Board of Directors an agreement in principle to open a state-of-the-art facility in Southern Pines later this year.

According to Stuart Tuffnell, president of the clinic's board, the clinic is finalizing plans to lease 3,000 square feet of space at 211 Trimble Plant Road, the site of the former Proctor-Silex facility, for a term of 10 years for $1 a year. Construction plans are being finalized in an effort to begin renovations by the end of May.

The new clinic, which will have ample parking and handicap accessibility, will be designed to accommodate more patients, staff and volunteers. It will include a waiting room, four exam rooms, reception area, laboratory, nursing station, restrooms, staff and development offices, supply room, break room, volunteer space and a multipurpose room for meetings and training.

"This new facility will permit us to have two providers seeing patients simultaneously," Tuffnell says. "It'll be set up like a traditional doctor's partnership with better access and flow for the providers and patients. As a result we'll be able to see more patients and decrease the waiting list time for appointments."

The clinic hopes to maintain a presence at its current Carthage location and more fully utilize its office at the Coalition for Human Care for expanded mental health screening and psychiatry support programs.

Community Support Needed

According to Joel Shriberg, vice president of the clinic's board, the clinic will look for assistance from area businesses and tradesmen to help renovate and retrofit the space.

"We are hopeful that this generous community will again help the free clinic," he said. "A large amount of the work requires skilled labor -- putting up walls, doors, covering the floors, as well as plumbing and electrical work."

Shriberg said he is confident that the community will help offset the cost of the renovations by donating time and materials to the nonprofit clinic.

"Without a doubt many of our Moore County neighbors are served by this clinic and it's a good way for the community to join in and support its work," he says.

Once the clinic has the final estimate of cost for the renovations, the board will make its final decision regarding the lease and set in motion a plan for a capital campaign to raise the additional funds required.

Space Issue Targeted

During a strategic retreat in early 2007, the board and community activists targeted the clinic's current 600-square-foot facility as one of the most pressing issues it faces. The clinic, which is housed in the rear of the Health Department in Carthage, was meant to allow three or four people to work comfortably. Patient exam rooms located in the department were used as needed.

The free clinic opened at its current location in April 2004 and has registered more than 1,500 of Moore County's neediest residents for care. In the past two years, the demands on the clinic's resources have grown as it works to provide continuing care to its chronic disease patients.

At the same time, the Health Department also faces a space shortage, so it is not able to provide any more space to the free clinic.

"We've been very fortunate to have this space [at the health department] for the past four years," says Dr. David Bruton, one of the clinic's founders and past chairman. "The county leased this space to us for $1 a year, and it worked great, but now our capacity and efficiency are sorely restricted."

A visit to the clinic on any work day provides a glimpse of the cramped space with as many as six staff, volunteers and patients sharing the tiny room.

"We ask our patients for a lot of personal information regarding their health and financial situation, so we have a privacy issue working so closely in a tight area," says Laura Tremper-Jones, executive director of the clinic. "We also have a tremendous need for volunteer help, but we've had no place to either train them or to do the work."

Prior to finding this facility in Southern Pines, the clinic considered space at FirstHealth, modular units and new construction, which were later ruled out.

The lease agreement will be between MFCC and John O'Malley, a local businessman, who took ownership of the deserted factory several years ago and is currently making improvements to the building for a variety of tenants.

"I originally heard about the free clinic over one of their [the clinic's] Dining In the Pines fundraising dinners. It's a very worthy cause that has great impact on many people's lives," O'Malley says. "I'm glad to be able to help."

Claudia Watson can be reached at cwatson87@nc.rr.com