People seeking health care in rural Warren County have waited a long time for good news. Now they're celebrating.
Residents who live in the county, on the Virginia border, have a new primary care doctor in town. And her medical clinic is in the same building where a community health clinic used to be, before it shut down.
Red, white and purple balloons adorned the parking lot outside the HOPE Regional Medical Clinic in Warrenton, for the celebration. People enjoyed the music and the food. But most of all, the community enjoyed seeing Dr. Demaura Russell.
“Hey sweetie, congratulations!" one woman said. "So proud of ya’ll. It’s going to be well.”
Russell has been developing plans to open a clinic in Warren County for about five years. That’s around the same time the Warren Community clinic shut down.
“It’s a hard place to be," said Russell. "It’s sad whenever any health care facility that’s providing to the underserved closes.”
But Russell, 39, is ready to pick up where others left off, and thrive in her hometown.
"I think we just have to have community support. I think there are plenty of people that need primary care services here," said Russell. "I think having the community come out and support us is going to be the key."
And the community came out for Russell, including Stacy Woodhouse, director of Warren County’s Economic Development Corporation. Woodhouse confirms that Russell is paying $1 a year to lease her building on West Ridgeway Street, across from the county health department.
“It’s always hard for a rural community to attract talent, especially with doctors," said Woodhouse.
Woodhouse said whatever Russell needed, they worked to get it for her. Russell will be the first full-time, primary care doctor to set up shop in Warren County in many years.
“But to be able to have a doctor who was born and raised here and then comes back to her community, so she knows her community, and her people know her and trust her," said Woodhouse. "There’s that relationship there already, built in. It’s like a dream come true. It’s awesome!”
Retired OBGYN Dr. Cosmos George is also pleased with the opening. He used to sit on the board of the former community health clinic.
“I’m happy that there is another medical facility here so the people in the county could be served and they could get some medical attention," said George. "Even happier because this is a young doctor from Warren County, who I saw grow up.”
With the opening of the HOPE medical clinic, there are now three primary care doctors in the entire county, population around 20,000. All of the doctors are of African and African American descent, serving a mostly low-income population. Doctors James Kenney and Francis Aniekwensi operate Beckford Medical Center. They rotate time in Warren County because they also have offices in Vance and Franklin counties.
Hazel Silver Boyd lives in Warren County but travelled to Henderson in Vance County to see Dr. Russell.
"I am excited that she is back in Warren County," said Boyd. "I don’t have to travel.”
Russell’s new clinic is “for profit," not a free clinic or a community clinic like the one that closed. Grants and donations dried up, and North Carolina has not expand Medicaid to cover many in need.
Meanwhile, there are already plans to open another HOPE clinic in Soul City.