Friday, September 9, 2011

Lexington Medical Clinic Closes

"I'll be here till I die." Dr. Diana McCutcheon referring to the Lexington Clinic in 2003.

Like life itself, the community of Lexington has always been full of troubles. For many years, ECM Hospital provided staff for the small clinic located in the business section of Lexington...when it could. Many physicians refused to man the outdated clinic and those who did soon left. Then Dr. Diana McCutcheon arrived.

McCutcheon was a 1982 graduate of the American University of the Caribbean, a small medical school based in St. Maarten and owned by DeVry University. The small college was founded in 1978 and is, according to Wikipedia:

"accredited by an obscure organization called the Accreditation Commission on Colleges of Medicine (ACCM), an independent organization based in Ireland that accredits medical schools on behalf of several governments, including the governments of St. Maarten and the Netherlands Antilles."

Shortly before McCutcheon's arrival, the town built a modern facility to house it's public clinic. Located just north of town on the road to Tennessee, the new brick building and the matching drug store located next door were the pride of the rural community. Residents considered McCutcheon, an internist and former ER physician, a godsend. The town council even appointed Tom McCutcheon, the physician's then husband, the new municipal judge.

Diana Khadhiri McCutcheon herself felt so comfortable in the clinic that she wished to purchase it from the town. When mounting debt from water and sewer related issues caused the town to face a large shortfall, the town council agreed to sell the facility. McCutcheon immediately built an addition to house her growing cosmetic laser practice. Parking lots at the clinic and adjacent drug store were always full.

Soon the now 53 year-old Dr. McCutcheon opened a second location nine miles to the south in Elgin. Again, McCutcheon included a cosmetic laser clinic in the facility, also selling Obagi products. Beauty isn't cheap, but sources stated the physician still made the majority of her income from her medical services. Despite her success, Lexington residents said it wasn't unusual to see nursing staff performing gardening or other outside tasks after clinic hours.

Then in July of this year, patients arrived at the walk-in Elgin Quick Med to find it locked. Callers were told it was because of a staff shortage related to the July 4th holiday, and the facility soon reopened, but long-time patients were greeted by unfamiliar staff. Other patients then found the main facility in Lexington closed. Rumors abounded in the eastern end of Lauderdale County, but calls to the Lexington office were answered with only a recording stating the office was closed due to vacation season.

Several Lexington residents state they're upset by the current situation. They now have to drive several miles out of their way to see the physician they've come to claim as "theirs." No one knows how long the clinic will remain unmanned, and an anonymous source with the town says there are no funds with which to buy back the clinic, and if they did, would RegionalCare consider providing a new doctor?

While Lexington residents lament the apparent loss of their town doctor, some Sheffield residents are wondering why Dr. Christopher Parker Gay remains in practice...

To be continued Monday...