Three health care facilities are expected to open in Cape May County in the next several months, part of a network designed to make medical services more accessible and affordable.
CompleteCare Health Network, a nonprofit health organization, already operates 18 medical and dental facilities that serve about 50,000 uninsured people in Cape May, Cumberland and Gloucester counties.
Now, the agency is planning to open a new center at the Wildwood Housing Authority, an urgent care center at the Shoprite in Rio Grande and move its existing Cape May Court House location to a new building.
The decision to bring a center to Wildwood was based on its designation as a federal medically underserved area in which an estimated 28 percent of the population has no health insurance.
The current Cape May Court House location serves about 9,000 patients annually.
"We serve everybody with or without health insurance," said Emily Paul, vice president of marketing and communications. "Our mission is to help low-income people who have a little bit harder time gaining access to high-quality health care."
Patients pay for CompleteCare on a sliding fee scale based on income.
In Wildwood, the group plans to open a center that will provide primary health care for children and adults along with dental care, podiatry, women's health care and mental health care.
The location will be adjacent to the Wildwood Housing Authority's 100-apartment complex on New Jersey Avenue.
Paul Dice, the authority's executive director, said the facility was a welcome addition.
While some such as former City Commissioner Al Brannen still oppose bringing the health care provider to the city, Dice said it will offer the authority's residents, who include both seniors and families, with an accessible health care option.
Brannen said Monday that he still thought it was a poor idea to bring the center to a tourist town.
“People need help, no doubt about it,” Brannen said, but he explained that a resort like Wildwood was not the right place for the center.
CompleteCare is paying for the use of the authority's space — $41,000 each of the first two years and then $45,000 for each of the next three years.
That money will go toward the authority's upkeep, Dice said.
"It is very exciting at a time of sequesters this is one of the avenues of financial independence," Dice said.
The interior of the 4,500-square-foot building, which once provided office and meeting space, has undergone demolition and once CompleteCare has the necessary approvals the renovation can begin.
Curtis Edwards, CompleteCare's executive vice president of special projects, said he hopes to be able to open the Wildwood location, funded by a $1 million federal grant, in mid-May.
It will house six exam rooms as well as dental-care area.
In Cape May Court House, CompleteCare has an office at 410 N. Route 9, which opened in 2005. That office is closing as the facility moves just down Route 9 to a new office at 3 Broadway St.
"Our office sees over 9,000 patients every year and that number continues to grow," said Darlene Clendaniel, center manager for Cape May Court House. "As we continued to add more services it became clear that our one office was no longer enough and an expansion was necessary to better meet the needs of our patients."
The Middle Township location will also offer primary health care for adults and children, women's health care and other specialty services such as Podiatry, Dermatology and Optometry.
All dental services will move to Wildwood.
The urgent care center, which will be called RiteCare, will be inside of the Rio Grande ShopRite. This location will be open evenings and weekends and will offer walk-in treatment.
"All three of our new sites were designed to provide state-of-the-art health care to patients in a comfortable setting," Paul said.
All of the new locations will be open by June. A spokesperson for Cape Regional Medical Center was not immediately available Monday.
Sue Staeger, a spokeswoman for Cape Regional Medical Center, said the type of services that the facilities will offer are essential to reducing the number of charity care cases treated at the hospital in Cape May Court House.
“It is extremely helpful to have providers like CompleteCare in our community,” she said. “By increasing access to primary care services, the uninsured and underinsured residents in the county have a more cost effective alternative to the hospital’s emergency department.”
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