Community Health Center Hoping to Expand to Amherst Co.

Amherst Co., VA - The Blue Ridge Medical Center, based in Nelson County, could build a satellite center in northern Amherst County.

It all depends on a federal grant. The deadline to apply for that $500,000 grant is this Wednesday. For patients, it would mean a shorter drive and easier access to healthcare.

Jean Cornell traveled 63 miles to see a doctor she can afford. She checks in early at the Blue Ridge Medical Center, preferring to wait a half hour for her appointment instead of three or four hours in the emergency room.

"If I don't come here, I don't get the surgery. And they told me I've been neglecting myself a lot because I have no family doctor because I can't afford one," said Cornell.

"Everybody really deserves good healthcare and top quality and a patient-centered approach," said Peggy Whitehead, the executive director of the Blue Ridge Medical Center.

That's the idea behind community health centers.

Whitehead says 33 % of the roughly 10,000 patients they see every year come from Amherst County. The satellite center would focus on giving the rural population in the north end of the county access to primary care.

"More and more people who haven't had to have assistance before are on Medicaid and more may qualify if the affordable care act kicks in in 2014," said Whitehead.

The Blue Ridge Medical Center charges patients based on what they can afford to pay.

Cornell learns her blood pressure is still too high and will get help bringing it down.

"I probably wouldn't be going to a doctor, seriously. Cause I wouldn't know what it would cost," she said.

Instead, it's off to get the surgery she desperately needs.

The Blue Ridge Medical Center will find out if they'll receive the grant in September and hopes to have the new center open around January 2014.

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