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Caroline health clinic flourishing
Caroline Family Practice, a community health center in Bowling Green, marks its first year

 First lady Michelle Obama cuts the ribbon to open Caroline Family Practice in Bowling Green last year.
ASSOCIATED PRESS
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Date published: 9/13/2010

BY JIM HALL

Caroline Family Practice made headlines last year when first lady Michelle Obama traveled to Bowling Green to cut the opening-day ribbon.

Now, one year later, the community health center has added providers and treated hundreds of local residents, most of them poor and uninsured.

"We're doing exactly what we're supposed to do," said Rod Manifold, executive director of Central Virginia Health Services, the clinic's sponsor.

In addition to Obama's help, the center opened with $1.3 million in federal stimulus money. It joined the handful of clinics in the region that provide health care primarily to the poor.

About 85 percent of the patients at the Caroline clinic have either no health insurance or a government-sponsored plan, Manifold said. Statewide, that figure is about 25 percent.

Eighty percent of the clinic's patients have annual incomes below 200 percent of the federal poverty level, or about $21,600 for an individual.

The center is one of 14 operated by Central Virginia Health Services. The nonprofit also runs community health centers in Fredericksburg, Montross and Louisa.

Bettina Reed, a nurse practitioner, is clinic director and has been its principal provider. Last month she was joined by Dr. Rachna Dhar, an internist.

At first, Dhar will spend part of her time at Central Virginia's clinic in King William County. Then she'll move to Caroline full time, Manifold said.

"Her primary focus will be to build the practice in Bowling Green," he said.

The staff also includes Dr. Latisha Martin, a dentist, and Elisabeth Jerome, a psychologist.

The clinic is located in a converted grocery store at the edge of town. It is open to all--adults and children, insured and uninsured--and accepts the major government health insurance plans.

The biggest challenge for the clinic has been finding specialty care, Manifold said. When uninsured patients need cardiologists or endocrinologists, for example, few of the local specialists will see them, he said.

"It's frustrating to be able to take a patient to a certain point and then not be able to take the next step," Manifold said. "It's an indictment of our system."

Jim Hall: 540/374-5433
Email: jhall@freelancestar.com


3,112

Patient visits for first 12 months at Caroline Family Practice

309

Patient visits for July 2010

60

Percentage of patients who are uninsured

24

Percentage of patients insured by Medicare, Medicaid or FAMIS

The Community Health Center of the Rappahannock Region has a dentist again, though he is not yet accepting new patients. The Fredericksburg clinic has been without a dentist for several months, after Dr. Rana Graham departed to return to school.

Dr. Son Duong replaced her on Aug. 1. He is now working through the backlog of existing patients who need dental work. He expects to see new patients by the first of the year, said Kim Hedrick, office manager.

In the meantime, new dental patients are being referred to Caroline Family Practice in Bowling Green. Both clinics are operated by Central Virginia Health Services.