The Daily Southerner, Tarboro, NC

September 28, 2012

ECC proposes new facilities

FOR THE DAILY SOUTHERNER
FOR THE DAILY SOUTHERNER

TARBORO — Over the next two decades, the number of people older than 65 is expected to double in the United States.

When an increased life expectancy is factored in, the need for workers in the health care field is expected to continue to balloon.

That’s why Edgecombe Community College hopes to build a new Biotechnology and Simulation Center on its Rocky Mount campus. The new facility will house about half of its present health care programs — with plenty of room to grow.

“We have a strong health sciences curriculum, with 22 programs,” said ECC President Dr. Deborah Lamm. “But we’re running out of space.”

With about half of the fastest growing jobs expected to come from the medical field — including the top three: personal care aides, home health aides, and biomedical engineers — Edgecombe Community College wants its health care programs to meet those growing needs.

“It’s one of the largest programs we have, and it’s expected to grow significantly, especially considering our changing population,” says Robin Pigg, dean of health sciences.

Since 2004, the new Biotechnology and Simulation Center has been a priority for Dr. Lamm and the college. But after attempts by the college to secure federal grants for the $9 million building were unsuccessful, the Edgecombe County commissioners are proposing a quarter-cent sales tax increase to help fund this building and the Workforce Training Center on the college’s Tarboro campus.

Commissioners have been adamant about staving off property tax increases, and Pigg says a sales tax hike has been used to help other economically challenged counties in North Carolina.

Purchases of food, gasoline, motor vehicles, and agricultural machinery will be exempt from the tax increase, as will labor and services.

The sales tax referendum will be on the November 6 ballot.

“We have gone down every avenue,” explained Pigg, “but the cost benefits to a quarter-cent sales tax increase are huge. Health programs, especially in the long term, always are going to be viable.”

The new 45,000-square-foot building will have lab facilities and classrooms. It also will enable the college to simulate a hospital environment, such as rooms for emergency treatment, surgeries, and basic treatment.

“Right now, many of our students have to drive to clinical sites,” Dr. Lamm says. “We want to be able to put them in scenarios in which they feel like they’re in a hospital environment with realistic settings.”

At present, the college has a mobile simulator, but it’s a one-room set-up used daily by several instructors on campus. Pigg says that only five to six students can use the mobile classroom at a time.

“We’ve had 30 to 40 percent more applicants for health care classes in the past three to four years,” Pigg says. “We can’t accommodate all of them. We can’t grow because we don’t have the space.”

With an older population, particularly in Edgecombe County, the college’s present health sciences programs will be in demand for years to come. And the college wants to add specialty programs to cater to specific needs in the community.

“We need to offer new programs; we just don’t have room,” Pigg added.

Some of the new classes the college hopes to teach in the new facility include asthma education certification, breastfeeding/lactation therapy, geriatric aide, health coach, home care aide, and mammography.

“Jobs in these fields are available,” Dr. Lamm says. “The jobs have excellent salaries and benefits.

“A new facility would allow us to add programs that would prepare students for these jobs.”