Clinic reopening delights staff, patients
Joan Barenclau answered the phone last Thursday at the De Soto Family Practice with what was becoming a familiar refrain.
"We opened this morning," said. "We're taking appointments."
At a nearby desk, nurse Marci Reever was telling another caller nearly the same thing.
"Yes, today's our first day," she said. "We're glad to be back."
In late November, Hospital Corporation of America Inc. informed the staff it was closing the clinic at the end of 2003. After a six-week hiatus, the clinic reopened last Thursday under new ownership.
With the exception of a new computer system that still had a few bugs to address, there was little new with the reopening, Barenclau said. Four of the five staff members returned to face a full day of appointments, she said.
One of the clinic's first patients was Beatrice Fleming, who was dropped off at the practice by her son Norman Carr.
"It's wonderful," Fleming said of the reopening. "They're so good to you. Marci's the best nurse there is."
A persistent infection she contracted during a hospital stay brought her to the clinic, Fleming said. She was happy she didn't have to leave town for treatment and that her son wasn't forced to drive farther, she said.
Fleming was one of 24 patients with appointments on the day of the clinic's reopening, Reever said. The number represented a full and busy day for the staff, she said.
"We are going to make that the norm," she said.
The full day of appointments indicated a healthy practice, said Kathleen McInnis, practice administrator for Mid America Physicians Chartered, which owns the clinic. Another indication was the 3,500 patients whose files fill the office area.
Perhaps, just 25 patients asked to have their records transferred to other health care providers after news of the clinic's closing broke in early December, Reever said. Most of those came early, before a community effort started working to save the practice, she said.
That task force grew out of Darrel Zimmerman's conversation with Jodi Hitchcock, coordinator of the De Soto Multi-Service Center. Zimmerman, whose wife, Ruth, works at the clinic, was concerned about soon-to-be confirmed rumors that HCA would close the De Soto practice.
One of the area health care providers the task force approached was Mid America.
The overture came at a time Mid America was settling into its new west Shawnee clinic, McInnis said. That office consolidated former satellite clinics in Tonganoxie and east Shawnee and a larger practice in Bonner Springs.
"Expansion was probably the last thing on our minds," McInnis said. "Then the task force came to us. We were pretty impressed by what they had to say and present."
The company did its due diligence, determined De Soto represented an opportunity, and started negotiating its purchase with HCA, McInnis said. During those talks, Jim Boyes, the physician assistant at the De Soto clinic, started seeing some of his long-time patients at Mid America's Shawnee practice.
The De Soto clinic reopened one week after Mid America reached an agreement with HCA to buy the practice and lease the Lexington Avenue building it occupies. That quick turnaround didn't give Mid America time to do the cosmetic work to the clinic it planned, McInnis said.
"We're going to do some painting, and put in some new carpet," she said. "We didn't want to delay the opening -- that was the most important thing."
It was a day Barenclau doubted would happen in the days after she and other members of the clinic's staff received letters in late November from Hospital Corporation of America Inc., informing them the practice was closing at the end of the year.
"Structurally, it's great. It has a wonderful lobby. We certainly got it open pretty quick."
The next big change at the clinic would be the hiring of a physician, McInnis said. Mid America was looking at a number of "very good candidates," she said. Meanwhile, it would consider placing one of the doctors from Shawnee in De Soto on a part-time basis to help Boyes, she said.