Warren County native returns home to be 1 of few physicians in town

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WARRENTON, N.C. (WNCN) – There are 17 counties in North Carolina that do not have a hospital. In Warren County, the lights are off and the building is closed at the former Warrenton free clinic.

It’s been closed for several years until Dr. Demaura Russell came home.

“Honestly, when I started deciding I wanted to go to medical school, I always knew I kind of wanted to come back home,” Russell said.

Russell is now one of only a handful of physicians in all of Warren County.

“I think the barrier of not being in a community that has a lot of access is definitely part of the problem,” Russell said.

It’s a problem that means patients have to go to a neighboring county for a trip to the emergency room or a hospital stay. That can add to overcrowding and cost. Russell is trying to ease that.

“I think that says a lot about her to have come here,” said Biscuqlia Copeland, who is one of Russell’s new patients. “Not being able to easily get somewhere can, you know, easily make a person’s decision of whether or not to even seek treatment.”

Copeland’s entire family goes to the new clinic for check-ups and treatment.

Russell said the lack of easy access to healthcare means, in the long run, insurance companies and taxpayers cover more as the whole community suffers. The clinic sees a lot of new patients with advanced diabetes and cardiovascular disease that have gone untreated.

“That is the key to health care. If we can get everybody to understand that preventative care is the way to go for health care management because, if we can manage problems before they actually become problems, then it’s a lot easier than trying to provide care after the fact,” Russell said.

“So if we control diabetes and hypertension in the early stages, then maybe we won’t have that expensive hospitalization from a heart attack, or a stroke, or long-term care we have to provide after the fact because someone had a debilitating stroke and now they can’t live at home.”

The need is so great that the county agreed to lease the building to H.O.P.E. Regional Medical Clinic for only one dollar a month.

“It can be a big difference in going here, as opposed to Henderson or even Raleigh or Durham to see a doctor,” Copeland said.

“Everybody deserves to live a healthy life, and if they don’t have access to healthcare, how can they do that?” Russell added.

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