It is a privilege and a blessing to work with individuals who are so capable and admired by many. One individual who has clearly left a personal mark on a community is Dr. Richard Rawl. He has been the lone physician at our medical outpost in Bethel for these many years. As you may have recognized by all of the comments that have been expressed in the newspapers, Dr. Rawl’s personal service has been very much appreciated.
In a recent testament, I received a call from a person in Conetoe to emphasize how Dr. Rawl has been such a comfort to the community.
I remember when I first came to eastern North Carolina and settled in Windsor. The shortest way to Raleigh then was along old U.S. 64 to Route 42. It took us through Williamston, Everetts, Robersonville, Parmele, Bethel, Conetoe, Pinetops and on to Wilson. Only there was one able to connect with U.S. 264. There were still many other small towns to pass through, but the road became somewhat wider, and there were not that many stops left. There were thriving roadside businesses all along the way.
I drive that route sometimes just for old times’ sake. In some areas, if you look to the north, through the trees, you can glimpse the cars on the new U.S. 64, travelling at 70 plus miles per hour. The tourists to our region hardly know about these old roads. The 64 bypass has become the fast lane to the beach!
Dr. Ken Steinweg, Dr. Rawl and others have clearly struggled to maintain really close and convenient services in Bethel for years. Some folks can literally walk from home. It is easy to see how that convenience would be valuable.
There are clear and compelling reasons to consolidate our services in the new Family Medicine Center. We must provide the same upgraded “patient-centered care” that all the folks now experience in the new state-of-the-art facility. Even though this is an imperative, every one of the caring individuals I have spoken with has reacted to the emotion that individuals from Bethel have clearly demonstrated. The sense of loss is real and should be respected and acknowledged. In full context, the community has already lost most of its commercial enterprises, and the clinic that has held on for 62 years, is clearly the last victim of circumstances. I can only imagine what that loss means in terms of the emotional content.
To try to do all that is humanly and technically possible, we have left no stone unturned. Over the last decade, this work has included many carefully planned ways to reduce costs while maintaining services. The building is old, and we have tried to keep it occupied and maintained in the most cost-effective manner. Most recently, we have started a conversation on exploring the possibility of having the Pitt Area Transportation System reach out to Bethel. This could potentially help with transportation for those without cars or sufficient finances. This effort is an attempt to close the 15-mile distance between our towns. We have inquired at the Bernstein clinic, but this facility has all that it can handle right now. We have even looked into creating the opportunity for home visits by Dr. Rawl. The community itself has rallied, and most recently, out of love for the people of the area, a very caring Bethel community member has indicated a willingness try to open a private medical clinic. He is a very generous man, and I applaud him for his very kind gesture.
Here at The Brody, even though we are not experiencing “business as usual,” our dedicated staff members have maintained their focus on the mission without a sideways glance. Such is their passion for serving others!
We remain hopeful for all who live in eastern North Carolina. We will be smart and will use our resources most effectively, for the benefit of all of the citizens that we serve. That pledge to maintain focus on our mission includes Pitt County, and of course, all those beyond.
We are truly blessed.