FOWLER, Ind. (WLFI) - A medical center in Benton County has closed its doors a month sooner than patients were expecting. It's forcing some patients to find a new doctor immediately, a lot farther from home.
The Benton County Medical Center, which was a Unity Healthcare partner, was originally set to close on May 25. That's according to a letter that was sent to patients by Dr. Steve Martin, saying they needed to transfer their medical records.
A Unity spokesperson said the reason the center was closing was because Dr. Martin was leaving.
An automated machine at the center says it closed April 19, or more than a month earlier than expected. A Unity official said the doctor had to take another job across the state immediately or else he wasn't going get it.
Some patients said they found out the center was closing sooner because of a notice posted at the local pharmacy. The notice was also posted on the door of the medical center.
Joan Jones, a former patient, said once she found out, she immediately had to find another doctor because she requires weekly home health care for physical therapy and she needs one for her records. She says now, her daughter will have to drive her 15 minutes away every time she gets sick or needs a doctor.
"She'll have to get me into the van, take me over to the doctor, and get my wheelchair in the van. It'll be a little hard on her but I guess you can't have a choice," said Jones.
Dave Haynes said he now has to drive the hour and a half round trip to Lafayette several times a week.
"It's a hardship. Many people in Benton County that go to this doctor, Earl Park, Boswell, Oxford, now we've all got to go somewhere else," said Haynes.
A Unity official said Dr. Martin was concerned about the Benton County Health and Wellness Center. That center opened in Fowler at the beginning of the month for county and school corporation employees. A few residents who can't afford health care also utilize that center. Dr. Martin was afraid he might lose some patients to that center.
The Unity official said Dr. Martin was in Fowler for 2 to 3 years. In that time span, he didn't see an increase in patients.
This is the second rural medical facility to close in recent weeks. Hillsboro Family Medicine in Fountain County, part of the Franciscan Physician Network, closed as of March 28.
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