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Thousands to be Affected by Clinic Closings

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WENDELL — Thousands of people in the Triangle could be out of luck when it comes to health care. Maybe you.

The organization that runs four clinics of doctors' offices has gone bankrupt. And now lots of people are wondering where to go for medical care when they need it.

Edwin Jones takes several medications on a daily basis. His doctor has advised him to stock up.

"I have to go ahead and order my medicine now for the next two months until I can get another doctor," Jones said.

Jones is one of some 60,000 patients at four clinics in Raleigh, Cary and Wake Forest owned by the North Carolina Medical Associates. The corporation has filed for bankruptcy. And the group's 20 doctors, who haven't been paid since June, plan to stop working early next month.

That's left patients like Jones in limbo, wondering where their doctor will practice and where their medical records will be.

"I don't think that the crowd that went bankrupt should have my records to do what they want to with," says Jones. "I think they should give me my whole records and let me deliver them to the doctor I want to."

Jones says he was originally told it would take four weeks to get a copy of his records, then two weeks.

MedPartners, the management company that operates the clinics, is urging patients "not to panic."

It says it'll forward medical records to the patient's new doctor or copy them for the patient in 7 to 10 days.

Above all, MedPartners wants patients to know that these clinics will remain open. The company plans to hire a new group of doctors to take over.

The question is how many patients will be left?

"I want to stay with the doctor I've had," Jones says. "I don't want to stick with family practice -- they're too wishy washy. I just don't trust them."

If you're a patient at Raleigh Family Physicians, Triangle Family Health Care, or Wake Forest Family Medicine, you can call the clinic and request a copy of your records. You can also talk to your doctor about what his or her plans are.

Many of the doctors have non-compete contracts, which could impede them from practicing again nearby. But again, MedPartners says it does plan to hire new doctors to keep the clinics up and running.