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Boone County clinic sets off on its own

Friday, October 12, 2007 | 2:00 p.m. CDT; updated 1:16 p.m. CDT, Monday, July 21, 2008

ASHLAND — With a pair of enormous wooden scissors, Nathaniel Murphey sliced through the yellow ribbon at the open house, cutting the final ties that the Southern Boone County Family Care clinic held with MU Health Care.

After years of operating as a joint outreach clinic with MU Health Care, the clinic is now staffed and run entirely by the Boone Hospital Center and BJC Medical Group.

Nathaniel Murphey, who grew up in St. Louis County, knows what it’s like to be independent. The only sibling from a family of four children to attend college, Murphey spent his teen years working at Schnucks grocery store trying to raise money for college. With his acceptance into the University of Missouri, Murphey finally achieved the dream that was at the back of his mind.

In 1996, Murphey joined the Southern Boone County Family Care clinic. Over the years, he said, the best part about working in Boone County was watching the children he treated grow up to have children of their own.

“The thing that has been the most fun is getting to see the progression of families over the years,” Murphey said.

But the fun also comes with hard work. As one of only two physicians whose practice is located south of Columbia in Boone County, Murphey has always had a full office. His patients, of all ages and ailments, come from southern Boone County, Columbia and Jefferson City. Splitting time among the 150 to 200 patients who visit his clinic each week and the patients he visits in an Ashland nursing home keeps Murphey on his feet. And he’s still willing to accept new patients.

Murphey understands the role the clinic plays in the growing community.

“It’s very important to everyone,” he said. “It attracts new employers, keeps business in town and keeps the town growing.” He also noted that the clinic treats patients quickly and is in close proximity to many people.

Murphey said he thinks the transfer of ownership was a way for MU to get out of the clinic business and cut expenses. “The university could release the clinic and have a cleaner balance sheet,” Murphey said.

Mary Jenkins, spokeswoman for University Physicians, said the reasons for the transfer were financial. “The clinic was not meeting our financial expectations,” she said.

Jeff Hoelscher, media coordinator for MU Health Care, said the clinic was losing $55,000 a year for the university due to rising costs for solo practitioners.

Despite the financial concerns, the transfer of ownership has been amicable. In fact, the Ellis Fischel Cancer Center will continue to operate a van that provides mobile mammograms to clinic patients.

The transfer of ownership between MU Health Care and Boone Hospital Center has caused some employee changes, but Murphey sees the clinic’s future as bright.

“I can see this clinic having two to three physicians and extended hours. We could have subspecialty providers visit from Columbia, and we could provide more services, such as X-rays,” Murphey said. “We’ll need more providers in the next few years.”


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