Edgecombe hires full-time primary care physician

By Darla Slipke

Staff Writer

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Edgecombe County soon will begin offering full-time primary care services, which will enable the county to provide more comprehensive, wrap-around services for residents, county officials said.

The county has hired Dr. Ken Lovette to provide full-time primary care services starting July 1.

Lovette already had been providing part-time, limited primary care services on a contract basis, Assistant County Manager Eric Evans said. Now, Lovette is in the process of building up his client pool so that he can start providing full-time primary care services next month, said Evans, who also serves as human services director for Edgecombe County.

Lovette’s salary will be $140,000, Evans said.

In April, county commissioners voted to approve a job description and associated pay grade for a primary care physician. When establishing the position, county officials looked at a salary range provided by the N.C. Office of State Human Resources.

County officials have discussed the need for better access to primary health care for local residents. The ratio of primary care providers relative to the population in Edgecombe County is 1:3,327. That compares to a ratio of 1:1,480 for the state and 1:1,067 nationally, according to information provided by county officials.

Health officials thoroughly researched whether the county could afford to offer expanded primary care services before they pitched the idea to county commissioners, Evans said. Even though they knew there was a need in the county, they also knew the county was not in a position where it could afford to take on another service that would be a drain on its budget, Evans said. All the numbers they looked at indicated that offering full-time primary care services should support itself, Evans said.

He said county officials looked at this endeavor the same way they looked at putting in water lines in the county.

“It has to be able to support itself,” Evans said.

He said health officials are excited to be able to start offering full-time primary care services. A lot of health departments provide some level of primary care services, but few public health departments in the state have a full-time doctor on staff who can provide such an array of comprehensive primary care services, Evans said.

The health department has a clinic on the sixth floor of the Human Services Building at 122 E. Saint James St. in Tarboro. People can call 641-7511 if they would like to schedule an appointment.