East Winston-Salem clinic removes travel, language barriers in shortage area

Novant Health Waughtown Pediatrics (WGHP)

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. — Doctors in Forsyth County noticed a troubling pattern in emergency room records – people were going to the ER for health issues that didn’t require an emergency room visit.

For Novant Health, that brought attention to the greater issue of health care provider shortages in local neighborhoods.

These are areas that are federally designated as places that have less than one primary care provider per 3,500 people.

The Waughtown community in east Winston-Salem was one of the places with a shortage.

Teresa Azcorra is a mother who has lived in the community for 11 years.

She explained that because many of the families only have one vehicle and there were no clinics within walking distance or a short drive, it was a burden on people to go to the doctor.

“We would get many phone calls first thing in the morning and the families would say, ‘I know I have an appointment today, but my ride backed out on me, they were called into work, and so I’m going to have to cancel or re-schedule my appointment,’ even if the child were sick,” pediatrician Dr. Lia Erickson said.

Erickson said in some cases, families would wait until after hours or go to the emergency room for care.

After Novant Health reviewed emergency room records at Forsyth Medical Center, it says at one time, Waughtown was a zip code that represented the highest number of visits.

People in the community are grateful that there is now a more convenient option.

Novant Health Waughtown Pediatrics, at 648 E. Monmouth St., opened a little more than a year ago.

People who live in the area say it has addressed both a travel barrier and a language barrier.

Most of the staff members are bilingual.

“This neighborhood is relatively diverse, but the more immediate neighborhood is predominately Spanish speaking and I would say about two-thirds of our patients, their primary language in their home is Spanish,” Erickson said.

Azcorra said communicating with a Spanish-speaking provider has helped her better understand the illnesses her children may be experiencing.

Novant Health is looking at other zip codes where clinics are needed.

To put into perspective how diverse its patient population is, in 2017, interpreter services were used 128,205 times for people who speak languages other than English.