Updated: Presence closing office of only doctor in St. Joseph

ST. JOSEPH — The only medical doctor's office in St. Joseph is closing.

Patients were notified by letter this week that the Presence Medical Group location at 226 E. Lincoln Street will shut down on June 20.

The news hit the village — and many of Dr. Alina Paul's patients — hard.

"So disappointed," resident Katie Andersen said Friday. "I hope she will relocate somewhere close."

St. Joseph Mayor B.J. Hackler said he asked Presence if it was possible to maintain a smaller medical facility in St. Joseph.

The answer was no, he said.

"I have a concern whenever we don't have a medical facility here," the mayor said.

Hackler said he received a call from Presence on Wednesday, alerting him of the decision. Two days letter, the news arrived in writing — via a letter that stated: "As the healthcare landscape shifts, it is important that Presence Health align its resources where we can make the most impact to our communities. As a result of these changes, our Presence Medical Group Saint Joseph location ... will be closing. Our last day at the Saint Joseph location will be June 20, 2014."

The letter went on to state: "Nearby community options for your care include Christie Clinic on Windsor in Urbana, which is only 20 minutes from Dr. Paul's current location. Also you can consider Christie Clinic Family Medicine in Champaign."

The letter sent to patients included a transfer of medical records form for them to fill out and return to Paul's office by June 20.

Marilyn DeWeese and her husband, Larry, are both patients of Paul's. DeWeese said she was shocked when the letter arrived. The last time she saw Paul, she said, the doctor gave no indication that her practice would be closing or that a transition was imminent.

"This just seems so sudden," she said. "I called the office and found out that it was pretty much a shock to the employees and other patients."

DeWeese has been a patient of Paul's for three years.

"She treats the patient, not just the symptoms you show up with that day," DeWeese said. "She is very knowledgeable. She is very professional."

When her husband was having surgery, DeWeese said, Paul called to check on his status, as well how Marilyn was coping.

It's that personal touch she'll miss.

"We have lots of options in the area," DeWeese said. "But our past experience with physicians at Carle, and some at Christie, have been ... very impersonal."

Presence, for its part, said the company does care about their patients.

"There are other options for patients to access quality health care in the area within 20 minutes of the current St. Joseph location," Presence spokeswoman Angela Benander said Friday after the news broke. "Presence Health is doing everything possible to help our patients find alternative sources of care in the greater Champaign community."

Benander said Presence Covenant Medical Center will continue to operate all of its other services, including the area's largest inpatient rehabilitation center at the hospital's Blessed Beginnings Birthing Center in Urbana.

Still, St. Joseph resident Sheri Burkett Walsh said, "It's been nice having an option so close to home."

Hackler said he has been in contact with another medical facility to gauge its interest in coming to St. Joseph. A meeting has been set for next month.

"It's too early to tell," he said. "But the village is interested in seeking some kind of medical facility."

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Topics (1):Health Care

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