DOBSON — A local physician says Lowgap is one of few places in the state with no medical facilities, and he’s aiming to remedy that.
On Monday, Dr. Challie Minton told the Surry County Board of Commissioners that he has plans to open a clinic in Lowgap.
“The 27024 (Lowgap) zip code is the only zip code in the state with no medical care (facility),” Minton told the board.
Minton said once other adjacent areas are considered, there is an area of about 150 square miles which contains no treatment facility.
Minton, who practices in Mount Airy, told board members that he had looked into turning the former Lowgap School into a clinic in 2010, but bringing the building up to code would have been cost-prohibitive.
Instead, he has turned his attention to a donated property at the corner of N.C. 89 and Flippin Road. He said he has applied for grant funding and loans through the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which offers low- and no-interest loans for such ventures.
He noted he intends to open a full-time clinic in a nice building, but in order to move forward with financing through the federal department, he needed a letter of support from the local governing body, the county board.
“So you just need our moral support?” asked Commissioner Van Tucker in order to clarify that the county was not committing to funding any portion of the project.
Minton, a former Navy corpsman who earned his medical degree while serving the U.S. Army, told Tucker that moral support was, indeed, all that was needed.
The board voted unanimously to approve a letter of support.
• EMS Director John Shelton did have a request for funds to relay to commissioners, however.
Shelton said his department is in need of a refrigeration unit in order to deliver blood to trauma scenes. The unit would be placed on the EMS supervisor’s truck, and it costs about $5,400.
Shelton said he had planned to use leftover monies in the 2016-17 fiscal year’s budget to purchase the unit. However, the units will not be available until after July 1, the start of the next fiscal year. Thus, he asked commissioners to include the funding in the 2017-18 fiscal year budget.
Shelton noted his department has been performing blood transfusions in the field since August, adding that the procedures have made a huge difference in saving the lives of people involved in trauma-related incidents such as automobile collisions.
Surry County is one of only two EMS departments in the nation performing blood transfusions in the field, according to Shelton. The other department is located in Texas.
However, the new procedure isn’t without some challenges, said Shelton.
“Getting the blood to the scene has been tough,” Shelton told county commissioners.
EMS officials had worked out a deal with Northern Hospital of Surry County to have blood available. The plan was for an official, either EMS or law enforcement, to stop by the hospital to pick blood up to be rushed to the scene in the event it was needed.
The new plan calls for using portable refrigerators in the interim and the refrigerator for which Shelton has asked for funding at a later date to store blood from Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center on an EMS vehicle at all times. The blood would constantly be rotated out for use at the Winston-Salem trauma center, ensuring a fresh supply is always with EMS officials.
County Manager Chris Knopf recommended the matter be placed on the county board’s agenda for its final budget workshop on Tuesday at 6 p.m., and commissioners consented to the course of action.
Andy is a staff writer and may be reached at 415-4698.