CHAMPAIGN — Closing physician offices in this area is nothing new for the medical group that is now part of Presence Health.
Plans to shut down the family medicine practice of Dr. Alina Paul in St. Joseph follow what has been a gradual dissolving of most of the former physician practices in central Illinois that were once part of Provena Medical Group and are now part of Presence Medical Group.
The number of doctors once employed by that group in this region is unknown. But it still included 22 physicians in Champaign and Vermilion counties as of 2009, according to News-Gazette archives.
It now includes four doctors within a 50-mile radius of Champaign — counting Paul, whose office is set to close June 20, according to Presence Medical Group.
Provena Medical Group was formerly part of Provena Health, which became the larger Catholic health care and hospital system, Presence Health, through a 2011 merger.
But the gradual dwindling of the physician group in Champaign and Vermilion counties predates the merger.
Physician clinics were opened and then discontinued in Savoy and Campustown, with the former Provena Medical Group building in Savoy taken over by Christie Clinic last year.
In 2009, the former Provena Medical Group was in the process of ending its six-physician practice in Danville, but a former executive of what is now Presence Covenant Medical Center said there were intentions of keeping what was then Provena's physician practice in Champaign County with the 16 doctors remaining.
In an emailed letter to her patients sent to The News-Gazette, Paul made it clear the closing of the office wasn't her idea.
"I wanted to let you know how sorry I am about our office closing soon. It is not of my choosing. I wanted to thank all of you for giving me an opportunity to serve you. It has truly been my honor. I wish you all the best of care and health," she wrote. "This office has been part of my life since January 2007. I wish all of you my best and one final thing. For every minute of the time I spent in the clinic to serve you wholeheartedly, you were worth it."
Paul declined to speak in an interview, but replied in an email that she has no future plans yet.
Presence Health also declined to be interviewed about its physician presence in central Illinois, but its spokeswoman Angela Benander said in an e-mail that Christie Clinic and Carle have long-standing and well-established practices serving the needs of the region.
"Given their strong presence, it would be difficult for Presence Medical Group to serve a significant number of patients in these communities. Due to the changing landscape of health care, we have had to make difficult decisions about where to invest our resources and how we can make the most positive impact on patients' lives and in our communities," she said. "We have determined that those resources are better used in communities that do not have the wide range of options available in the central Illinois region."
Presence Medical Group has 15 medical specialties in more than 90 locations in Illinois, according to its website, and in February added the seven-physician Sage Medical Group to its primary care network in Chicago.
In addition to Paul, the group's doctors listed within 50 miles of Champaign included psychiatrist Dr. Feiteng Su in Urbana, and pulmonologist Dr. Ismail Bobat and plastic surgeon Dr. Susan Schneider, both in Danville.