Thursday, Feb. 7, 2008

Clinic closes after 25 years

Clinton doctor known for going above and beyond

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Christopher Anderson⁄The Gazette
Dr. Ed Rupert of Brandywine is closing his Clinton medical practice this month after 25 years of treating patients in the community.
Dr. Ed Rupert walks around the front desk of his small clinic reading a medical chart. He looks comfortable in his sneakers, jeans and sweater, greeting patients with a friendly smile. His demeanor is mild and his voice is calming.

Patients look at ease when he is talking to them, like he is a trusted friend rather than their doctor.

On the front door to Rupert’s medical clinic hangs a small sign that tells patients the office will close for good Feb. 22. But behind that simple, white sign through the plain glass door is an office that has assisted residents of Clinton for the past 25 years.

‘‘It’s like being at my own wake,” Rupert said. ‘‘So many people liked coming here, and I made so many friends.”

Margie Shorb, a nurse who has worked for Rupert for 14 years, said everyone has been affected by the clinic’s closing.

‘‘It’s like a death in the family,” Shorb said. ‘‘I came to work one day a week, and it just grew into 14 years.”

The clinic, located at 9135 Piscataway Road, has been a walk-in facility for minor injuries and illnesses that treated primarily patients who were not sick enough to go to the emergency room. Rupert takes health insurance, Medicaid and Medicare as payment.

Rupert is closing the clinic because he would be forced to sign a 5-year lease on the office. Since he is 61 years old, he felt it was too much of an investment. He also couldn’t find anyone willing to take over the clinic for him.

In July 1982, Rupert left his job as chairman of the emergency department at Andrews Air Force Base and started the clinic because he felt it was something the community needed.

Many times patients will come in with colds or minor physical injuries. Occasionally a patient will come in with an ailment too serious and he will refer them to the hospital. Though he is not a primary care physician, Rupert said many of his patients treat him like he is their own doctor.

‘‘There were not a lot of walk-in clinics at the time,” said Rupert, a Brandywine resident. ‘‘And about 85 percent of emergency room cases could be handled outside of the emergency room.”

A clinic like Rupert’s is a faster and easier way to get medical attention than waiting in a crowded emergency room, especially when the illness is easily treatable.

And according to Shorb, the patients get a more personal experience than what they get in an emergency room.

‘‘He gives them his time,” Shorb said. ‘‘He takes his time and listens to them. This isn’t a production line. You can tell that he really cares.”

Up until a few years ago, Rupert was working seven days a week for about 12 hours a day. He recently cut the clinic’s hours to six days a week.

He has had full-time doctors as partners, but decided to go solo three years ago when his malpractice insurance increased. He does occasionally have doctors fill in for him when needed.

Shorb also said Rupert would take a patient even if he showed up just before closing.

Some patients even travel to come to the clinic. Rupert said he had a patient who traveled the three-hour drive from Philadelphia to see him. He eventually had to discourage the patient from traveling so far.

Rupert even got a chance over the years to spend time with his grandchildren at the office almost every day. His daughters, Amy, 31, and Tass, 25, each worked at the clinic around the time that they had children of their own.

‘‘It was amazing,” Rupert said. ‘‘They would bring in the children every day. So I got to see my grandchildren all the time.”

Rupert also has two sons, Zachary, 21, and Benjamin, 24, and a wife, Paula.

Mike Evans, who first went to see Rupert 18 years ago when he lived in Clinton, said he continued to see Rupert because of the quality healthcare he provides.

‘‘He’s just a very good doctor,” Evans said. ‘‘He tries to help in any way he can.”

Evans said quite a few times Rupert has gone above and beyond what is normal for a doctor by taking extra time and giving good advice.

‘‘It’s such a shame that he has to close,” Evans said.

Aoeisha Anderson, a secretary who has worked with Rupert for a year and a half, said patients are devastated when they hear that the clinic’s doors will be closing.

‘‘A lot of patients are upset,” said Anderson, who, after coming to work for Rupert became a patient. ‘‘We have people coming in who don’t even need attention just to talk to him and say goodbye.”

Rupert said he doesn’t have any plans to open another clinic, but he is sad to have to close.

‘‘I’ve made so many amazing friends here,” he said. ‘‘It’s such a loss.”