Dozens of people at a Monday night meeting in Bethel pleaded for their rural community health center to remain open after a recent announcement that the East Carolina University Clinic in Bethel would shut down. The Bethel Family Medicine Clinic has been a part of the community for more than 30 years, operated by ECU's Brody School of Medicine. It will close September 1st and services will move to a new Family Medicine Center in Greenville.
The meeting organized by concerned citizens Monday at 7:00 p.m. at the Bethel Senior Citizens Center drew a crowd of about 50 people. ECU says the clinic already cut back hours after the number of patients dropped, and the facility is more than 60 years old and it was unfeasible to renovate and keep it in Bethel.
Older patients say they are used to walking to the clinic in Bethel and they have no transportation to get to Greenville. A doctor from the Bethel Clinic was on hand to respond to their concerns and said patients and their families have been given 3 months notice, so they can make arrangements for the 15-20 mile drive.
Clients left the meeting still hopeful they will be able to convince lawmakers or somehow keep the Bethel clinic open.
ECU says during the last fiscal year, the clinic operated $100,000 in the red. In 2006-2007 fiscal year it saw 6,710 patients, last year that was down to 5,221 and so far this year only 3,884 patients have been seen.