The Lighthouse Family Clinic stunned its more than 2,000 North Coast-area patients last week when the staff there announced the doors will close for good on Friday, March 10.
Tom Miller, the advanced registered nurse practitioner (ARNP) who opened the medical practice in Ocean Shores seven years ago, wrote a letter Feb. 15 notifying the clinic’s patients.
The clinic, located at 897 Minard Ave. NW, has canceled regular appointments and is seeing everyone on a walk-in basis until it closes. Miller especially urged his patients who are receiving prescriptions or who want copies of records to see him soon.
“I’m not dropping my license or anything like that,” he said, explaining that prescriptions will remain valid, but patients will still need to find new providers in the future. He said he plans to keep a phone line and answering machine going after the clinic closes next month.
Miller said the clinic has been operating at a loss the past two years, and blamed a mix of increasing regulatory costs and decreasing reimbursements from both government and private health insurance programs.
Miller said the health care business model has been changing since he first opened the clinic, from patient-driven to insurance-driven.
“I picked the wrong time to be a provider. The days of the Normal Rockwell painting of the doctor’s office — that’s what I wanted to do…but those days are no longer here,” he said.
He also said the recent expansion of the Sea Mar Clinic in Ocean Shores had not impacted his Lighthouse Clinic. He said his practice has continued to grow in terms of patients and patient visits, but that’s been outpaced by the growing costs and declining revenues.
“Getting people in here and seeing them is not the problem,” he said. “It’s getting the reimbursement.”
Miller said he is not quitting medicine, is not leaving the area and in fact already has three job offers. One of the possibilities is a “clinic on wheels” business model.
“This has been the best seven years of my life, serving the people of Ocean Shores. I have to say; whenever you look at life, you look at chapters. This has been the best chapter of my life,” he concluded.