The closing of the clinic would mean that 1,000 employees and their dependents would be looking for a new doctor in a county that already has a shortage of primary care physicians. Haywood Regional’s announcement was much awaited by those who were determined to keep Dr. Tony Jones and his staff from leaving Canton.
“We (the people) were not going to take no for an answer in the closing of Dr. Jones office. The hard work and dedication to keep this issue in the public eye was very valuable in moving forward,” said Traci Hoglen, one of Dr. Jones’ patients who helped organize the demonstrations to keep the clinic open. “For all those who participated and worked hard, your voices were heard. This is a proud day for all.”
While the practice previously was limited to employees of Evergreen packaging, Haywood Regional plans to expand access to the entire community. The practice was previously managed by Take Care Health Systems (now Premise Health Care), a subsidiary of Walgreens. Haywood Regional will assume the lease effective May 1 and offer employment to all staff and healthcare providers. The practice will become part of the physician network affiliated with Haywood Regional and will reopen under a new name on May 5.
“We are proud to build upon the stellar reputation that Dr. Jones and the staff at the former Evergreen Family Medical Center have developed. Adding this practice to our network is one more way we are fulfilling our mission of making our community healthier by ensuring continued access to primary and specialty care in the Canton community,” said Haywood Regional’s CEO Phillip L. Wright in a press release. “As a Duke LifePoint hospital, we are a strong and stable healthcare system poised to grow in many ways. We plan on remaining the healthcare provider of choice for Haywood County so that our residents can continue to receive quality care close to home.”
Haywood Medical and Mission Health in Asheville both expressed interest in acquiring the clinic when Evergreen announced the closure. Hoglen said she was pleased with the decision Dr. Jones made in joining Duke LifePoint Haywood.
“This new venture will open its doors to others who need good-quality heath care in our community,” she said. “Duke LifePoint has made great improvements to our hospital, and I see many more great things to come in the future.”
Dr. Jones, medical director of the practice, is excited about the transition.
“Phillip (Wright) reached out to me on behalf of Haywood Regional after he heard that we faced closure. I was very pleased to hear that they were interested in continuing the operations of our practice and am eager to work with the hospital moving forward,” Jones said in a press release. “I am ready to get back to taking great care of our patients, and we are grateful to Haywood Regional Medical Center for helping to make that happen.”
Haywood Regional plans to lease 10,931 square feet of the building, which will expand the size of the medical practice space by more than 2,000 square feet and allow for a wide variety of specialists to rotate through the new Canton location. Negotiations are already underway with a local pharmacy to sublease space in the building.
Christina Deidesheimer, a spokesperson for HRMC, said the clinic would have a mixture of the many specialists currently part of the HRMC medical staff as well as those the hospital is in the process of recruiting.
“We are continuously evaluating the needs of our community, and have plans to add primary care providers to our medical staff,” she said. “The number of providers we place in a particular physician practice is determined by need.”
Deidesheimer said adding the practice to the hospital’s network is one more way HRMC is fulfilling its mission of making the community healthier by ensuring continued access to primary and specialty care in the Canton community.
“We want to ensure that the Canton community has access to highly qualified and experienced specialists when the need arises,” said Wright.
The new name of the clinic will be announced May 5, and a ribbon-cutting and open house celebration will be scheduled for mid-to-late May.