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DHHS Recruits Record Number of Primary Care Providers to Rural North Carolina


For Immediate Release
Thursday, July 17, 2013

Raleigh, N.C. - N.C. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Aldona Wos reports today that efforts to recruit physicians to underserved areas of the state have brought in a record 160 primary care physicians, psychiatrists and dentists over the past year, surpassing expected estimates for the department's medical placement services initiative.

"We are continuing a legacy created in 1973 by the late Governor Jim Holshouser, who saw a need to bring quality health care to rural areas of our state," said Secretary Wos. "We know that provider gaps still exist in parts of North Carolina and we are actively exploring ways to expand recruiting efforts and use technology, like telemedicine, to meet those needs."

The DHHS Office of Rural Health and Community Care, now in its 40th year of operation, has recruited an average of 149 health professionals to chronically underserved areas of the state each of the past six years.

According to federal guidelines, 78 counties in North Carolina qualify as Health Professional Shortage Areas because of shortages of primary medical care, 81 counties because of inadequate dental care and 58 counties due to a lack of mental health providers to meet population needs. Through loan repayment programs and incentives, DHHS works to recruit not only primary care physicians, but also dentists, nurse practitioners, physician assistants, psychiatrists and dental hygienists to rural and underserved areas of the state. The department also works with communities to determine additional sources of funding, including federal and philanthropic grants.

With the support of state, federal and philanthropic sources, the Office of Rural Health and Community Care administers a budget of approximately $37 million and provides services in all 100 counties, empowering local communities and supporting them in developing innovative strategies to improve access, quality and cost-effectiveness of health care, with a primary focus on the uninsured patient population. In addition to physician recruitment, the Office also provided the following support to rural areas in the last year:

  • capital funding or technology improvements to 19 rural health centers in 17 different counties
  • connection to a primary care medical home for 96,000 uninsured adults
  • management of a medication assistance program providing free and low-cost medications donated by pharmaceutical manufacturers to more than 48,000 patients

For more information on the work of the DHHS Office of Rural Health and Community Care, visit

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