Groundbreaking possible this month for Complete Care

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WILDWOOD- A $2 million health center that was originally criticized by city residents was approved by the planning and zoning board late last summer, and organizers say groundbreaking could begin in February.

Complete Care, which is a network of 18 health care centers throughout Cape May, Gloucester and Camden counties, provides primary medical, dental, and behavioral health care to about 50,000 patients annually.

After receiving $1 million in grant money, the network plans to open a new facility on New Jersey Avenue that will see about 6,000 patients annually. The facility will operate at the Wildwood Housing Authority, so the project will also renovate the authority’s building. 

Curtis Edwards, the executive vice-president of Complete Care’s special projects, is overseeing the Wildwood project. He said that bids for the construction of the center are already out, and that the organization hopes to award the project by mid-February. After the project is awarded, Edwards said, there will be a groundbreaking ceremony. The facility plans to open in May.

Edwards said the project had been delayed and revised after Hurricane Sandy. When first presented, the center was expected to cost $1 million to complete. Now, the estimated total cost is about $2 million for the center because the facility will have to be raised to meet new Federal Emergency Management Agency base flood elevation standards.

Emily Paul, a spokeswoman with Complete Care, said that while the center had been met with opposition by city commissioners and some residents, most viewed the project favorably after it was presented to the zoning board.

“While there were still some people who had negative thoughts about the project, the overwhelming majority had positive opinions,” Paul said. “We don’t take it personally at all, they want to make sure we provide a good service.

“We’re going to bring something very nice to the community in Wildwood,” she continued.

According to Paul, Wildwood is designated as a medically underserved area, which means it has too few primary care providers, high infant mortality, high poverty, or a large percentage of elderly residents.

Paul also cited Wildwood’s high unemployment rate, the area’s dependence on seasonal jobs, as well as the number of the area’s jobs that do not offer health insurance, as reasons why the city was chosen for the health center.

Paul said the facility will offer care to both insured and uninsured patients. Patients without insurance can meet with financial counselors to try to be connected to federal and state health programs to offset the cost of their care. Also, Paul said that the cost of services is on a “sliding scale” price range. 

When the project was first presented to the city in August, Mayor Ernie Troiano Jr., as well as former commissioner Al Brannen, had said they were concerned the new facility would attract more people in need to Wildwood. Residents also expressed similar views at commissioner meetings.

“It’s just like that movie, if you build clinics they’re going to come here,” Brannen said at the Aug. 8 commissioner’s meeting. “If you walk around the streets of Wildwood at night, there are more people of need than visitors.”

Representatives from Complete Care, however, argued that they were bringing a viable service to the island.  

“Shame on anybody to think we would introduce the wrong kind of people here,” Gil Waters, CEO of Complete Care said at the Aug. 22 commissioners meeting. “We serve rich folks, we serve poor folks. The uninsured and the insured, we serve people from all walks of life.”

A groundbreaking ceremony for the new center is planned to be sometime this month.

Christie Rotondo can be emailed at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it or you can comment on this story at www.shorenewstoday.com.

 


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