• 48°

Marchers send message to Sentara

James Wooten Jr. followed behind the 75 or so people walking from the Pocket Park in Dillwyn to the location of the endangered Buckingham Family Medicine in the March for Medical Care.

“I’ve been going to Dr. (Richard) Muller here for about 10 years,” Wooten said as he leaned heavily on his metal cane with each step of the half-mile walk along Main Street Sunday, Sept, 20. “We would really hate to lose him. They are moving to Zion Crossroads, but that’s a long way from here.”

Wooten is a Vietnam veteran who suffers from diabetes and the effects of Agent Orange, a pesticide commonly used by U.S. troops to kill jungle vegetation in Vietnam.

“I almost got killed about seven times,” he said of his tour of duty from 1966-68, which included crash landing in a C-130 aircraft when he walked away without a scratch. “Jesus has been so good to me. He saved me many times.”

Now, Wooten depends on Buckingham Family Medicine for his health care. He said he will at least try to make the trip to Zion Crossroads once Dr. Muller transfers to a part-time position at the Spring Creek Family Medicine location, but it’s not only Dr. Muller that makes Buckingham Family Medicine so valuable to Wooten.

“I’m going only because of the nurse that is going with him,” Wooten said. “I don’t let anyone give me shots but her.”

Linda Davis made a sign for the march that said, “Sentara, don’t close our medical center please.”

The former Charlottesville resident said she moved to Dillwyn after retirement for the peace and quiet. She said she uses the medical center regularly for her health care. While she is happy the closing date of the facility has been moved back to Dec. 23, she said that’s not enough.

“We want it to stay permanently,” she said.

Buckingham County Supervisor Jordan Miles said the turnout of supporters shows how much community members care about keeping the facility in Dillwyn.

“People deserve good, quality health care, and if you look at Buckingham, we’re kind of in a microcosm when it comes to rural America. We’re less well off,” he said. “Access to affordable health care is the number one need according to the most recent community health needs assessment that Centra did, and it’s one of the top needs in the upcoming one. It’s a clear need.”

Miles is hopeful Sentara’s recent move to delay the closing of the local facility to December 23 will lead to a rethinking of the decision to close the practice.

“I think Sentara is going to do the right thing,” Miles said. “I think Sentara is going to do the very corporate responsible thing to keep this doctor’s office open.”