Canton celebrates keeping its clinic
Within six months, a primary care medical clinic for Evergreen Packaging employees went from being on the chopping block to expanding its services.
The community came together last week to celebrate the fact that Evergreen Family Medical Center, previously owned by Primus Health Care, is now Haywood Family Practice of Canton after Haywood Regional Medical Center took over ownership in May.
“We are excited to welcome Dr. Jones to the Haywood Regional family and for this opportunity to further our commitment to making our communities healthier,” said Phillip Wright, CEO of Haywood Regional. “Dr. Jones’ expertise and longevity in our community are greatly valued. We are pleased that this new practice will allow us to offer quality care close to home for even more residents of our community.”
No one was happier than Dr. Tony Jones, who has been the primary physician for Evergreen employees and their families for 10 years. When Evergreen announced at the beginning of the year it would be closing the clinic due to low useage, Jones assumed he would either have to relocate to stay with Primus Health Care or try to look for another job in the area. Now that everything is said and done, Jones said he is glad he took a chance by leaving the company he worked with for 18 years to stay with the clinic under Haywood Regional Medical — a Duke LifePoint hospital.
“Haywood is a good group to work with and they’ve stood behind what they said they would do,” Jones said. “They’ve improved the look of the clinic, the EMR (electronic medical record system) is going to be upgraded and they’re committed to doing more advertising.”
Jones said a majority of the mill employees and dependents had chosen to stay with him at the clinic instead of seeking a new physician. No surprise there since several of Jones’ patients from the mill were the driving force behind keeping him and the clinic in Canton.
Traci Hoglen of Canton, whose husband has worked at the mill for 34 years, helped organize the community and held several rallies in Canton to show support for keeping Jones and his staff in Canton despite Evergreen shutting down the clinic at the end of March. Hoglen and others marched to keep the clinic open and first floated the idea of getting Mission Health or Haywood Regional to buy it.
It was a good idea considering the primary care physician shortage in the region. Closing the clinic would have meant that hundreds of mill employees would be searching for a new provider in an already strained market. Both hospitals were interested in the clinic, but considering Mission Health is already in the process of opening a primary care and specialty service facility in Haywood, it made more sense for Haywood Regional to acquire the clinic and keep it in its current location to serve Canton.
“I am so thankful the clinic is staying open and we can continue to see Dr. Jones,” said patient Kathleen Spence. “I thought I was going to have to find another place to go, so I kept following the news to see what would happen. It is great news for me, the people at the mill and everyone in Canton that they stayed open.”
Hoglen said she was pleased with how everything came together and all the hard work paid off in the end.
“I am not the hero in this situation, Dr. Jones is the hero. He was the one that had to make the decision concerning his career,” she said. “We are all very grateful that he chose Duke (LifePoint) and wanted to stay with us. I would also like to acknowledge Duke LifePoint/HRMC for taking this big leap in Canton.”
Jones said mill employees who wish to stay at the clinic need to call and make new appointments to be placed into the new computer system. They also need to come into the office and sign a document that will allow Primus Health Care to release their patient medical records to Haywood Regional.
Jones is also accepting new patients and already has a steady stream of new appointments.
“Monday I saw four new people, Tuesday I saw three new patients and Wednesday I had two,” he said. “I’ve also seen families and kids that used to come to me, so it’s truly going to be a family practice.”
The clinic has seven staff members in addition to Jones. A new front desk staff member was hired to handle the increased number of calls coming in to make new appointments. When the clinic reaches capacity, Haywood Regional will look to add more staff. As of right now, Jones encourages new patients to call and make an appointment because it could take a few weeks to get seen.
“There will be a little longer wait for new patients because we’re only allowed to see so many new patients a week,” he said.
As part of its mission to provide quality care close to home for community members, Wright said Haywood Family Practice of Canton would explore opportunities for growth and expanded levels of service as needed. He said HRMC plans to offer access to specialty care by including a rotating schedule of specialists in urology, cardiology and orthopedics at the Canton location.
The Haywood Family Practice of Canton is now accepting new patients
• 119 Park Street, Canton, NC
• Open from 8 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday through Friday.
• To schedule an appointment, call 828.235.3023.