Big Island first responders working to keep local clinic from closing

BIG ISLAND Big Island in Bedford County will be losing its only doctor's office by the end of the month. December 28th will be the Medical Center's last day here in Big Island, but the emergency crew that works next door, is not ready to lose the service.

Just a day after most patients heard the news, people are working to find a solution.

“The doctor's office in Big Island, it really is what we depend on. This is a one show town. That's all we have,” said Brandon Cocke, Chief of the Big Island Volunteer Fire Company.

Over 900 patients get seen at the Big Island Medical Center. They seek out help for routine check-ups to more urgent injuries that might not require an emergency room trip.

“I was cut with a chainsaw and I came down here and had it done. Which I would have had to go to Lynchburg probably,” said Michael Manley a patient at the clinic in Big Island.

That's a drive that people are going to have to get used to making more. If patients in Big Island want to stay with Centra they will have to travel about 20 miles to Lynchburg or Bedford. There is a non-Centra affiliated clinic in Glasgow, but locals say it is more difficult to travel over the mountain to get there.

“There's a lot of older folks, there’s a lot of folks that are ill and can't just hop up and take to Bedford and Lynchburg,” said Cocke.

Centra says it wasn't any easy decision to close, but it's been difficult to find a full time doctor to staff the clinic since the old one recently retired. They also said the building is aging.

The Big Island Emergency Crew currently owns the building and Centra leases from them. Captain of the Crew, Larry Whorley says he is willing to help if they have problems with the building itself.

“Well first, we're willing to sit down with Centra and see what their concerns as far was the building and what they feel needs to be repaired or replaced,” said Whorley. But that’s not all the local first responders are willing to do for their hometown.

“The local fire department and the rescue squad we're getting a petition together to send around to get some of those 900 and say please don't close this clinic,” said Whorley.

“Somebody has to fight for it whether it's… I don't necessarily think it's against Centra, but try to persuade them of how important they are to this community and to stay,” said Cocke.

WDBJ7 spoke with a Bedford County Sheriff’s Deputy parked outside the clinic on Thursday. He said they've been asked to keep an eye on the area every day the clinic is open until they permanently close their doors in the end of December.