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Emanuel clinics in Turlock, Patterson closing
National primary care physician shortage hits local facility
emanuel physicians pic
The Emanuel Family Practice clinic on Monte Vista Avenue in Turlock (pictured above) as well as the clinic in Patterson will be closed as of May 8. - photo by KRISTINA HACKER / The Journal

The departure of the last primary care physician practicing at two clinics serving thousands of patients in Turlock and Patterson is forcing Emanuel Medical Center to shutter the doors on the facilities.

The hospital is closing the two Emanuel Family Practice clinics in Turlock and Patterson because the last primary care physician, Dr. Gulnara Tarpe, is relocating to the Bay Area to be near her family. The hospital is prohibited from delivering primary care to patients at a clinic that is without a licensed physician on staff and therefore must close down the two clinics, said EMC spokesperson Pennie Rorex.

The two Emanuel Family Practice clinics are located at 2240 W. Monte Vista Ave. in Turlock and at 1010 W. Las Palmas Ave., Suite E, in Patterson.

The closure will go into effect May 8 and will result in the loss of employment for 14 employees. Rorex said the 14 employees will be given a severance package and are being encouraged to apply for any applicable vacancies at the Turlock hospital.

The clinics had been staffed with two primary care physicians until February, when one relocated to the East Coast, leaving Dr. Tarpe as the sole provider.

Within the last year the clinic had served an approximate 3,800 patients, Rorex said. The hospital will be sending out letters to the clinic patients informing them of the closure, as well as helping them locate other clinics in the area that accept both Medi-Cal and Medicare patients.

In addition, the hospital will establish a dedicated hotline for the patients of Emanuel Family Practice, through which information will be provided about comparable clinics, and/or physicians in private practice who are accepting new patients. The hospital will also offer the information in Spanish, Farsi and Portuguese.

The hospital has tried to find new primary care physicians to set up practice at the clinics, but have been unsuccessful, partially because of a national shortage of primary care physicians.

“Despite the hospital’s best efforts, and largely as a result of the national shortage of primary care physicians, we have been unable to recruit replacement physicians,” Rorex said.

According to the Association of American Medical Colleges’ Center for Workforce Studies, the current shortage of primary care physicians will grow to 5,000 in the next decade. The shortage is exacerbated by the growing number of Americans over age 65 and the demand for healthcare from millions of Americans newly insured as a result of the Affordable Care Act.

All of Emanuel Medical Center’s other specialty clinics will continue to operate as normal, with the same level of staffing.