Wayne County is currently in the process of applying for a Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) to help fund the construction of a new Collinwood Medical Clinic. The clinic is a satellite healthcare facility of Wayne Medical Center in Waynesboro. Both the Collinwood Medical Clinic and Wayne Medical Center are owned by the county, and operated by Maury Regional Health System.
Historically, Collinwood Medical Clinic provided primary healthcare services to southern Wayne County residents. Unfortunately, the building has deteriorated to the point that it is not able to adequately function as a healthcare facility. Additionally, Maury Regional Health System (which operates the Wayne County ambulance service) is currently unable to station an ambulance in southern Wayne County due to the lack of a facility. If a new clinic is constructed, Maury Regional Health System has agreed to station and operate ambulance services in southern Wayne County.
Like many rural counties, Wayne County suffers from the lack of availability of healthcare services. Wayne County has been identified by the Tennessee Governor’s Office as an economically “distressed” county. Wayne County is the second largest land mass county in Tennessee with over one half of its population residing in southern portion. According to 2010 census data, more than one in five Wayne County residents (21.3%) live below poverty level. Healthy Communities Institute indicates that high socioeconomic needs are associated with poor health outcomes.
Wayne County officials are addressing the lack of accessibility to healthcare by attempting to construct a new 3600 square foot facility to house Collinwood Medical Clinic. The existing building will be demolished, and the new clinic constructed on that site. The possibility of renovating the existing facility was evaluated by the project architect. Unfortunately, the deficiencies in the existing facility, which was not originally constructed to be used as a health clinic, were too costly to repair. It was determined that it was much more cost effective to construct a new building. A new facility will include a bay for an ambulance which would allow for an emergency vehicle to be stationed and operated in southern Wayne County. In 2017, the only physician practicing in Collinwood retired, and recruitment of a new physician to the clinic is hindered due to the present condition of the building. In fact, one healthcare professional indicated, “No doctor would ever consider practicing out of that building.”
Presently, the closest ambulance service operates from Wayne Medical Center, which is approximately 25 miles from communities in the southern end of the county. The long distance and sparse roadways often result in extremely long emergency medical response times, up to 45 minutes or more. The lengthy response time to medical emergencies is especially troubling due to the large number of elderly residents and farming/logging companies. One southern Wayne County resident wrote, “It is not unusual to hear them (elderly) discuss their fear of needing an ambulance and having to wait an inordinate amount of time for help to arrive.”
The emergency response times have resulted in many southern Wayne County residents purchasing memberships to air ambulance companies. Unfortunately, these services are hindered during bad weather conditions and often rely on an ambulance first transporting the patient to the helipad. If an ambulance was stationed in Collinwood, the response times would be dramatically reduced and in some incidents emergency medical care could be provided at the Collinwood Medical Clinic. A Cypress Inn resident whose mother recently suffered a stroke wrote a letter of support for an ambulance to be stationed in Collinwood, stating, “Our family often wonders what the outcome might have been with a more immediate emergency response.”
Wayne Medical Center released the response times for the current ambulance service in Waynesboro: Lutts – average 36 minutes; Iron City – average 31 minutes; Cypress Inn – average 24 minutes; Collinwood – average 15 minutes.
More evidence that the proposed project is a priority need for Wayne County is evident by the disproportionate health concern indicators. According to the 2019 Maury Regional Medical Center Needs Assessment, the Wayne County mortality rate for acute myocardial infarction (heart attack deaths) is 87.9% compared to the state rate of 45.8% and U.S. rate of 28.1%. Additionally, the assessment indicated that the following Wayne County health indicators between 2013 and 2017 worsened significantly, including: child health indicators worsened by 75%, diabetes indicator worsened by 80%, and cardiovascular worsened by 75%. All of these indicators worsened more than the state and U.S. for the same period of time. Healthcare professionals believe that these health indicators, especially the heart attack deaths, will improve if a prompt emergency response and health screening/prevention measures were available to southern Wayne County residents.
The Maury Regional Health System provides funding for operational costs of the Collinwood Medical Clinic through a contract with Wayne County. Operational expenses include maintenance, supplies, utilities, and insurance. Wayne County will be responsible for the upkeep of the building. Unfortunately, the new clinic cannot be constructed without CDBG assistance.