End of an era for independent doctor in DuluthAt 63, Dr. Barbara Hemenway doesn’t like computerized medicine, doesn’t like hours that stretch long into the evening and has been frustrated in her efforts to recruit a partner to her independent practice, Northland Family Physicians.
By: John Lundy, Duluth News Tribune
One thing hasn’t changed for Dr. Barbara Hemenway.
“I like my patients,” the longtime Duluth family doctor said this week.
But at 63, Hemenway doesn’t like computerized medicine, doesn’t like hours that stretch long into the evening and has been frustrated in her efforts to recruit a partner to her independent practice, Northland Family Physicians.
So, on the practice’s website and in letters to 1,800 households, Hemenway announced this month that after 32 years in Duluth, she is closing the practice and retiring at the end of January.
It will be the end of the era: Hemenway is Duluth’s last independent family doctor with hospital privileges, she said.
Hemenway feels fine, she said, although she’d like to have more time for skiing and bicycling.
But the difficulty of sustaining an independent practice and the changes in the way medicine is practiced are getting to her.
“In the olden days, when we wrote out our charts by hand, we saw lots of patients,” Hemenway explained. “I would get home by 6 or 6:30 and I would whine a lot, because I was young and I wanted to be home sooner.”
When she came to Duluth, she had a “flawless transcriptionist” to work with — “and I got home at 7 or 7:30, because I had to dictate,” she went on.
“And then computers arrived, and all of the sudden I’m getting home at 9 o’clock,” she said. “And all I can say is thank goodness my children are grown and I have a very, very, very patient husband.”
Hemenway told the News Tribune last June that she had been seeking a partner in the practice off and on since 2010. Since that interview, she had a physician almost ready to join the practice, but eventually he changed his mind.
And when she “finally realized that I would never be able to attract anyone to a lifestyle like that, I gave up the ghost,” she said.
She also learned on Oct. 31 that her business manager had taken a position elsewhere, she said, although the manager agreed to come in on weekends to keep up the work.
The practice includes Lisa Hebl, a physician’s assistant, along with several front desk staff, a chart manager, a lab technician and two medical assistants, she said.
Hemenway’s retirement might only be partial. She already has interviewed at a practice where she hopes she could continue to see some of her patients two or three days a week.
“I cross my fingers and hope that the first interview that I’ve had in approximately 36 years will pan out,” she said.
But she is trying to steer her patients who need more extensive care to doctors who will be available full time, she said.
She would like to keep serving the rest of her patients, Hemenway said, although she does have a reservation:
“If I go somewhere else, I will have to learn a new computer system, which is going to be rough and tough.”