Patients displaced after pain clinic closure struggle to find new doctors

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MADISON COUNTY, Ala. - Hundreds of patients are scrambling to find new medical provider, after the North Alabama Pain Clinic locked their doors for good.

Mark Murphy announced his retirement in December, but promised patients the clinic would remain open under new management.

When that deal fell through, some patients were notified, but most were not.

Now, many patients are struggling to find new pain clinics to let them in.

Dennis Jones was paralyzed from the waist down, after a bad accident more than 10 years ago. After years of physical therapy, he's regained use of his legs, but relies on powerful medication to get through the pain. For him, it's more than just a necessity, it's how he maintains his way of life.

“That’s something I depend on every single day. If I don’t have that, I couldn’t even get up and go to the store like I tried to today," says Jones.

Like so many others, Dennis was blindsided when he was learned that Dr. Murphy's practice wasn't staying opened like he was originally promised.

“I was very upset, very upset," says Jones.

With only a few weeks of medication left, he reached out to his primary care physician to help him find a new pain clinic.

“He’s made phone call after phone call. There’s one physician in town that I told him about that I would like to go see and he tried to call them several times. Nobody would return his calls. Nobody would even try to answer his call and he’s a doctor," he says.

So the process continued, more phone calls, more voice mails.

"I know the one place I finally got in touch you were looking at five months to get in. For an appointment. Just for an appointment? Yes, just for an appointment," says Jones.

His physician kept trying too.

"After that, he said there was another place he could set me up with, out in Madison so that’s what I’m waiting on now is a call from Madison to book me to come out for an appointment," he says.

According to Pro Publica, an investigative journalism newsroom that tracks prescriptions through Medicare Part D, in 2014, Dr. Murphy wrote scripts for 1,198 patients, and that only takes into account those on Medicare and Medicaid.

There are undoubtedly more on private insurance, and many of them now displaced by Dr. Murphy's departure joins Dennis on a waiting list.

"What are we supposed to do for five months? Just sit here and hurt and not be able to move. For people who have jobs. Look at the loss of money they’re going to have for not being able to go to work," he says.

As if his predicament wasn't already enough, that lack of assurance he'll be cared for, is a whole new pain of its own.

“That’s my hope, that’s my hope. If that doesn’t happen I don’t know what I’ll do," says Jones.

Dennis was never notified by Dr. Murphy's office that the practice was closing, but one of his friends was.

It's unclear why some got calls and others didn't, but Dennis tells WHNT News 19 his friend was invited to join Dr. Murphy's other practice, still operating in Lewisburg, Tenn.