Doctor Shortage Sends Some On Long Journeys For Help

Whiteford Residents Must Travel Half-hour

June 23, 1991|By Alen J. Craver | Alen J. Craver,Staff writer

The people of Whiteford need a few good doctors.

The Whiteford Family Care Center closed in April when Upper Chesapeake Health Systemsdecided not to renew its lease and transferred the two-doctor staff to the company's Bel Air health center.

That left residents in the rural areas of north Harford with one doctor, Dr. Herbert A. Martello.

Some Whiteford area residents aretraveling for more than a 30 minutes to Bel Air and Havre de Grace to tend to health care needs, said Ella Enfield, co-owner of the Whiteford health care facility.

Enfield and her family are now in search of full-time physicians to staff the center and serve the Whitefordcommunity. "The people are really upset about it," Enfield said. "They wanted the center to stay open."

Enfield has placed advertisements in newspapers and medical journals to attract doctors to lease the health center. Administrators at University and Union Memorial hospitals in Baltimore and York Hospital in Pennsylvania also are assisting the family in the search for doctors, Enfield said.

Enfield said she is concerned that she will not be able to find doctors until early next year, a time of year when many physicians take new jobs.

If that turns out to be the case, Enfield said she hopes to find areadoctors willing to staff the center several days a week until full-time general practitioners are found.

Enfield and her husband, Richard Enfield, built and equipped the building as a health center in 1980 for $150,000. The center is located on a small tract of land at the family's 450-acre farm off Route 165.

The couple also operates Enfield Equipment Inc., a farming equipment supplier, across from the medical center.

"This center was built to help the community," Enfield said. "We felt the need and the need hasn't changed."

Dr. Beverly J. Stump, Harford's deputy health officer, said the Whiteford center might have come before its time.

"The idea behind (the center) is good," Stump said. "But I gather the volume (of patients) is notenough to support it. . . . Maybe if the area develops, this will change."

Cindy Poteet, Enfield's daughter, said North Harford's steady population growth during the last decade serves as a solid base for a new medical practice.

The center was initially staffed by two independent doctors but they eventually moved from the Whiteford area, Enfield said. Fallston General Hospital and then Upper Chesapeake Health Systems provided medical services at the center.

Upper Cheseapeake's three-year contract expired in April and the company did notrenew it, Enfield said.

Darcel Guy, spokeswoman for Upper Chesapeake, said, "The population density in that area did not allow us to operate the facility full-time."

The Enfields, with support from the community and nearby churches, decided to develop the center after a county survey showed that the Whiteford area could support the services of four physicians, Enfield said.

The community at the time had two doctors, but one was retiring and the other was not accepting new patients, Enfield said.

The 2,600-square-foot center at 721 Wheelers School Road has offices for two doctors, examination rooms, a laboratory, waiting rooms and a community meeting room. X-ray equipment and other medical supplies also are available.

Poteet added that the family hopes to expand the center to include services from dentists, pediatricians, chiropractors and other specialists.

The family also has construction plans awaiting county approvals for a day-care center to be built beside the health center, Poteet said. The day-care facility is expected to open this fall with room for 40 children.

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