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County’s health department ranked No. 1 for primary care

Washington County’s health department is ranked No. 1 in the state for primary/clinical care.
Director James T. Carson provided an overview of the department’s ranking and services to members of the General Health and Welfare Committee during their January meeting.
Washington County has a physician for every 291 people, according to Carson. The state average is one physician for every 837 people; the national average is one for every 631 people.
“We’ve definitely seen an increase in primary care, and one reason is because of the increase in providers,” Carson said.
The health department has a physician in the office five days a week, in addition to three nurse practitioners.
Carson said the target patient population is primarily uninsured individuals ages 19 to 64.
“We’re designated as a safety net clinic, and we have a void to fill,” he said. “Some patients we just see temporarily, such as folks who lost their insurance when they lost their jobs. That’s where the safety net comes in.”
Funding for services is received from federal, state and local government sources.
“We charge for some services based on family size and income, but we never turn anyone away,” Carson said.
The health department saw the number of visits drop in some programs when the office relocated from State of Franklin to Princeton Road (in Johnson City) in June 2010, but the numbers have now returned to the same level if not higher.
“We were overly crowded at the former location, and we couldn’t even separate the sick patients from the well ones,” Carson said. “You wouldn’t believe the number of patients who have said how much they like the new facility. It’s made a big difference for the staff also.”
In addition to primary care, the Washington County Health Department offers a school-coordinated dental services program for children, nutrition education, immunizations, and women’s health services.
“It’s a constant struggle, but we are making improvements in the areas of obesity, teen pregnancy and diabetes,” Carson said.
The health department’s food and sanitation staff issues permits and conducts unannounced inspections of restaurants, hotels, camps, daycares, schools, public swimming pools, tattoo parlors and body piercing parlors.
“A lot of people do not realize all the things we do, and we want them to know we’re here to help,” Carson said.