ORIGINALLY WRITTEN CYNTHIA MARTENS
Hillsboro family-practice physician Randolph Whitely has announcing he will leave his medical practice in Hillsboro Dec. 31 and move to greater Wichita to join his family.
Wife Rebecca and the couple’s three children live in the suburbs of Wichita on a 31/2- acre homestead. Their two daughters and son -ages 6, 8, and 14-are currently enrolled in the Andover School District.
Whitely said he has reached a cross-roads where he’s losing the opportunity to spend valuable time with his family.
“My wife and I would just like to basically become a real family again,” Whitely said. “My kids are old enough now that I’m on the verge of beginning to miss out on the extra-curricular things. So that’s a huge piece of it.”
Although he’s excited about the Wichita area, Whitely said he has always had positive feelings about the Hillsboro community.
“Of course, Hillsboro would have been a fantastic place,” he said. “But my wife was born and raised in Wichita, and she has lots of roots there. Our daughters and our son are already pretty involved down there. So it was difficult for them to find it in their hearts to move up here.”
He began practicing with physician Randal Claassen about five years ago at Preferred Medical Associates Hillsboro Family Practice and informed the group about a month ago of his decision to leave.
“We have mixed emotions,” Claassen said on the heels of the news. “On the one hand, of course, we’re saddened, because we all like him. But on the other hand, we’re very happy for him, because he’s going to be rejoining his family.”
Whitely’s departure leaves the office with two physicians currently on staff-Claassen and Lorrie Campbell.
PMA is also losing Teresa Regier, advanced registered-nurse practitioner, who is preparing for future mission work in a hospital in India with husband Dale Regier.
“Teresa has essentially left,” Claassen said the first week in November.
“She’s planning on coming back to Hillsboro in January. But it’s just temporary. The tentative plan is for her to be here for about three months. And we’re hoping that she can work here part time during the time she’s here.”
PMA is currently interviewing candidates for a nurse practitioner or physician’s assistant to replace Regier, and Claassen said he hopes to have that position filled this month.
“But at this point, we’re not planning to replace Dr. Whitely, because that will leave us with two positions and a mid-level position,” when Regier’s spot is filled, he said.
Claassen said patients should not be concerned about any changes in medical care and attention at the office after Whitely leaves.
“We will be able to handle all customers,” he said. “We will make sure all of his patients are covered.”
Whitely said the care will be uninterrupted, and patients’ charts will remain at PMA.
“The other doctors will have the benefit of all the notes I’ve generated while I’ve been here,” Whitely said. “There will be some excellent continuity of care there.”
Patients are being told of his plans as they visit the office over the next two months, and Whitely also submitted a short explanatory letter to the editor at the Free Press.
In light of Whitely’s departure, Hillsboro Community Medical Center officials have offered to hire a physician to work one weekend a month in the emergency room at the hospital, Claassen said.
Hillsboro physicians routinely rotate through the emergency room at HCMC, and PMA physicians have chosen to be on-call 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
“The hospital has been generous enough to offer part-time emergency-room coverage for the weekend to give us a break once a month,” Classen said.
Looking to the future, Claassen said he plans to review the status of the patient-load situation after the new mid-level position is filled.
“Our plan is to replace a mid level and reevaluate over the next several months,” Claassen said.
“We do have some prospects for another doctor that we haven’t really pursued yet, just because we’re not sure we want to add on a fourth provider.”
Claassen said the reality of finding a physician willing to work in a small town is a difficult task. Because the hospital isn’t big enough to hire a full-time emergency-room staff, a new physician has to be willing to commit to 24-hour coverage, he said.
“It’s not easy to find people who have the heart for rural practice and small-town living, and are willing to sacrifice the time.”
Whitely said he plans to work in emergency rooms and as a locum tenens physician, which involves covering weekends so other doctors can have time off.
“I already work in the Emporia ER, so I’ll be working full time there,” Whitely said. “Then, I’ll do a shift or two out in Great Bend, and I’ll probably do one weekend a month or so in Chanute-doing locum tenens.”
He said he also hopes to be available as a locum tenens physician in Hillsboro in the future.
He doesn’t have any plans to join another practice or start a solo practice at this time in Wichita.
“I”m going to play it by ear a little bit,” Whitely said. “The ER and doing this kind of shift work offers a lot of flexibility. So it does actually give me more time with my family, and my family is my priority.”
Although he knows this is the right decision for his family, Whitely said he was torn because he was leaving people he cares about.
“The No. 1 difficulty about the decision, and the thing I’ll miss the most is the people-by all means,” Whitely said.
His one departing wish in leaving would be to see the area work toward establishing one Marion County hospital-a combination of HCMC and St. Luke Hospital.
“If I could wish anything for this area, that would be it,” Whitely said. “It would just solve so many problems.”
Claassen reflected on the years they’ve shared a practice and said he and Whitely are parting on good terms.
“He’s sad to leave and likes the practice here,” Claassen said. “And we’re sad to see him go.”