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Sunday, June 16, 2024

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New Health Center on Schedule

By Christine Cote

COURT HOUSE – There’s no furniture in place yet and staff is still being assembled, but the new federally funded community health center remains scheduled to open here early next month.
Rita Maroldo of West Wildwood started Oct. 24 as director of Cape Community Health Center, the new primary care facility that will be located in Burdette Tomlin Memorial Hospital’s former Imaging Center operated until just recently.
It is slated to include Burdette’s OB-GYN Clinic and the Community Dental Health Center currently in Wildwood.
Across Route 9 a quarter mile south of the Volunteers In Medicine (VIM) facility, it will not be in competition with it, said Maroldo. Rather, the goal is to try to “provide seamless health care.”
While VIM provides services to those who have no health insurance, the new health cen-ter will serve patients who are underinsured, said Maroldo. This means those who may be covered by some federal plan such as Medicaid or a children’s health care program but may not be able to find a physician to accept that coverage.
Will they treat those who are uninsured too? Yes, said Maroldo, “we would never close our doors to anyone who needs healthcare.”
She is temporarily working out of Community Health Care, Inc. (CHC) offices in Bridgeton and was slated to attend the Middle Township Committee meeting Monday night to report on the new health care facility, which is funded through a $1.2-million state grant received in August.
CHC, a not-for-profit corporation, is responsible for the operation of the new center and already has facilities in Cumberland County in Bridgeton, Vineland and Millville including four medical centers, two dental and two school based sites.
This county is one of the last in the state to receive a federally qualified health center, which is eligible for federal as well as state funding.
Up to now, VIM has been the only option for those with non-emergency health needs but no insurance. With the opening of the new health center, “from the point of view of the pa-tients,” said VIM President Joseph Meschino, “this is very good news; we look forward to it opening.”
Maroldo, a registered nurse practitioner who has worked in nursing for 30 years, is nego-tiating with physicians and other nurses to staff the facility.
She also will serve as manager and will provide direct patient care as a nurse practitioner.
“I don’t expect to move far away from the exam room,” she said. “Dealing with patients is my first love.”
At first, she expects the center to be open Monday, Wednesday, and Friday from 8:30 a.m. until noon. Then as it gains recognition, hours will expand to Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. until 4:30 or 5 p.m.
She also anticipates that the health center will be open one night a week until 7 and one or two Saturdays a month from 8 a.m. until noon.
Initially the health center will provide general primary medical care. But within a few months, perhaps by April, she said, the OB-GYN Clinic that now operates out of Burdette will be moved to the health center.
This was confirmed by Thomas Piratzky, Burdette’s vice president of public relations and marketing, who said last week that no plans have yet been made as to what will move into the OB-GYN area.
The new health center will also absorb the Community Dental Health Center from its Wildwood location, said Maroldo, and will eventually provide patients of the center with on-site medical, OB-GYN and dental services.
She said she expects six dental chairs in the new center.
In the future, once specialist providers have been contracted, she expects to add cardiol-ogy, pulmonary, orthopedics, and podiatry services, she said.
She said she also anticipates being able to offer lower cost prescription drugs to the cen-ter’s patients, which will include Medicaid patients as well as those who lack health insur-ance.
The center also will offer classes in such things as diabetes and nutrition, she said. Ac-knowledging that Burdette already offers educational services, she said that the center “will be working in collaboration” with the hospital, the county Department of Health, and Vol-unteers in Medicine.
That collaboration has already begun with the formation of a Leadership Team, which “will help us monitor the community,” said Maroldo.
On the team with Maroldo and Golden are: Gilbert Walter, CEO and president of CHC; Steve Carnahan, of Cape May Beach Plum Association; Joanne Carrocino, president and CEO of Burdette; Patricia Devaney, representing Freeholder Gerald Thornton; Lynn Krukosky, director of Cape Assist; Marianne Rementer, of Community Dental Health; Mar-ilou Rochford, Rutgers’ Community Health Sciences Educator; Barbara Ryan, director of so-cial services at Burdette; Debbie Spinella, representing Assemblyman Jeff Van Drew (D-1st); and Ann Walker, of county public health.
Golden said they “met last week for the first time” and hope to meet on a monthly basis.
Representatives of VIM have been meeting with Maroldo and Walter to work toward an understanding as to how both facilities can meet the needs of the community, said Meschino.
Initially, the “two will be open at somewhat different hours,” he said, “but eventually we will both be open most hours.”
VIM is currently open on Tuesdays and Thursdays, said Clinical Director Marilyn Golden. It is “pretty much by appointment,” she said, but they will handle walk-ins if they don’t need emergency services.
Tuesday hours are always 4 to 7 p.m. and on Thursdays those are the hours on the second and fourth Thursdays of the month, said Golden. But, on Nov.14, patient hours will expand to Mondays and Fridays with hours those days from 10 a.m. until 1 p.m., she said.
On the first and third Thursdays patients are seen from 11 a.m. until 2 p.m. and, Golden said, in the future, they hope to be open on those days from 4 to 7 p.m. as well.
Pediatric care is usually available on all Tuesday and Thursday clinic days, she said, and an eye clinic on the first Wednesday from 2 to 4 p.m. and the third Thursday from 9 to 11 a.m.
The goal right now is “the more providers we get, the more hours we will be open,” said Golden.
She said she doesn’t think VIM will lose any providers with the opening of the new cen-ter.
“I know current providers will remain, she said, and “I don’t see the new health center as impacting,” VIM’s ability to attract providers.
VIM has had difficulty getting physicians to volunteer their services since it opened early in 2001.
Maroldo recently helped Harrah’s Casino in Atlantic City set up a clinic for employes and their families. She has been a nurse practitioner for seven years and has lived in West Wildwood, where she is a commissioner, with her husband, Michael, for five years. He is a physician with a family practice in North Cape May. They have six grown children.
The grant that CHC received in August included $732,000 to start up the center here be-cause the state had designated two under served areas in this county, Middle Township and Wildwood. Eventually, satellite offices will be established in Wildwood and Woodbine through physician’s agreements.
In September, Acting Gov. Codey signed into law a measure that nearly doubled to $35 million the allocated funding for federally qualified heath centers in the state.
Contact Cote at ccote@cmcherald

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