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Community Care Clinic Board of Directors Meets With Concerned Supporters Over Recent Changes

By Jesse Wood

Personnel changes at the Community Care Clinic during the past few weeks have led to rumors swirling about the clinic’s future and ability to, at least temporarily, provide quality healthcare to its client base of low-income patients without insurance. 

The Community Care Clinic isn’t closing, but it is temporarily operating with reduced services after the urged resignation of clinic co-founder and director Marian Peters by the organization’s board and the subsequent voluntary departure of Nickie Hayes, the clinic’s only full-time RN, and some other volunteers loyal to Peters.  

Melissa Selby, executive director of Community Care Clinic, said she expects the clinic to resume operating at full capacity in at least six weeks. According to Selby and Dale Presnell, chair of the clinic’s board of directors, the hours at the clinic remain the same; patients continue to receive medication refills, lab work and follow up; and specialty care appointments are operating near normal.

The Community Care Clinic Board of Directors met with concerned supports of the clinic regarding changes recently. Photo submitted

“Appointment times for primary care vary each week based on the availability of volunteer providers for the immediate time being,” Selby said, noting that Dr. John Whitlock, another clinic founder, remains the clinic’s medical director and continues to volunteer as a medical provider.

Operations at satellite sites in Cove Creek, the Hospitality House and Bradford Mobile Home Park have been suspended, but the board expects these outreach efforts to resume as usual in the near future, too. Peters’ replacement is currently working at the clinic part-time and will move to full-time in the coming weeks. 

“In short, the clinic should be back to full strength shortly,” CCC Board Chair Dale Presnell said, adding that the clinic continues to receive and address the needs of patients, former and new, alike.

Beth Davison, a professor at App State and long-time supporter of the clinic, is among several concerned citizens, including CCC patients, former staff and volunteers, that spoke to High Country Press regarding the recent changes at the clinic, particularly the departure of her friend, Peters.

Peters didn’t return phone calls from High Country Press but did allow Davison to speak on her behalf. Davison said she’s been a volunteer and supporter of the clinic since it was co-founded by Peters and Whitlock in 2006.

“I represent a group of volunteers, patients, providers and friends of the Community Care Clinic who are dismayed how the voice of the medical providers, the people behind the recent statistics of success in patient hours and outcomes, the ones who actually did the work of patient care, were dismissed,” Davison said in a statement. “We do not understand the abrupt dismissal of Marian Peters without any notice or a single word of thanks or appreciation for what she did for the clinic.”

Davison described Peters as the “heart and soul of the clinic” and touted some of her awards, such as being recognized locally as a Watauga County Health Hero and nationally as one of 50 outstanding physicians just this past March.

Davison said that Peters was pushed out after being an outspoken critic of the Community Care Clinic’s board of directors changing of the clinic’s organization structure. “Marian felt it compromised quality healthcare for patients,” Davison said. “She was concerned that decisions affecting medical outcomes were now being made by non-medical personnel.”

Davison also expressed concern for the patients and how the clinic’s primary hours have temporarily dropped from 66 hours to less than 10 hours due to the recent personnel changes. Last week, a group of CCC supporters that Davison represents met with the CCC Board of Directors.

“Our group pointed out the Board of Directors didn’t adequately prepare for the recent transitions and left the clinic understaffed,” Davison said. “We consider this drastic reduction in care, without proper notice, as patient abandonment.”

Dale Presnell, the chair of Community Care Clinic’s board, declined to talk specifically about Peter’s resignation, citing confidentiality regarding personnel issues.

“As to why she was asked to resign, I really can’t talk about personnel issues or any confidential information, but I can tell you that this decision was years literally in the making. We on the board agonized over this and tried every alternative we could think of but at the end had to take a very, very difficult decision,” Presnell said in a statement.

But Presnell did touch on the recent meeting with the concerned clinic supporters and stated that the Community Care Clinic’s mission to provide healthcare to those without insurance will continue.

“We had a board meeting on Wednesday night where we welcomed 30 concerned clinic supporters for a sit-down. Most people are dedicated to supporting the clinic. Some people are really mad at the board actions, but I guess that’s to be expected. It’s just painful,” Presnell said.

“In any case, we’re keeping our eye on the ball. The clinic’s mission is to provide healthcare to our neighbors who lack insurance. We are dedicated to achieving the mission and feel that the changes we’re making will strengthen the clinic as we move into the future. Our committed professional staff and volunteers are working flat out to fill the gaps.”

Last year, the Community Care Clinic treated a record number of patients. 1,200 patients were served during more than 7,000 visits to the main clinic in Boone and satellite clinics in the county. For more information about the Community Care Clinic, click here.