Clinic becomes food bank
A family practice he took pride in was forced to close, but Randy Whitely is leasing the building to keep helping the community he served since 2006.
His one-story former office at 500 W. 4th St. in Peabody is now being used to operate Peabody’s food bank. Peabody Association of Churches has leased it through December.
“I said, ‘I will let you guys use it and pay utilities,’ ” Whitely said.
Heritage Medical Center opened in 2006. Whitely closed it this past year when he could no longer “make the numbers work.”
“I spent $1,000 a month to keep it open with the usual bills and payroll and I didn’t make enough money to pay myself. I didn’t make a dime in the 13 years we were open,” he said. “Not that I minded. I loved what we were doing.”
Whitely and Karen Larsen, a doctor a nurse practitioner, saw 8 to 10 patients a day.
Larger clinics like St. Luke in Marion have built-in efficiencies for handling referrals and insurance authorizations clearing physicians to provide treatment.
“It’s the one thing that slowed us down tremendously,” he said. “We were doing literally all of that.”
The only way a practice generates income is by seeing enough patients to pay the bills, which is a tall order in a small town.
“That January, I had $2,000 worth of bills and I knew I couldn’t keep the place open,” he said. “I made plans to close in May.”
He now sees patients at St. Luke Clinic in Marion. Larsen works in the emergency room at St. Luke Hospital.
He is pleased that most of his 400 to 500 patients now see him at the clinic. He is still fond of Peabody.
“I loved people there. They are going to be family for the rest of my life,” he said.