Bittersweet send-off as small town loses only full-time doctor

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LONOKE, Ark. — A small Central Arkansas town had a bittersweet send off Friday when the community’s only full-time doctor abruptly left his job.

Crowds aren’t a common sight in downtown Lonoke, but Dr. Leslie Anderson is certainly an exception.

Dozens of patients Anderson helped over nearly 50 years, lined up outside the CHI St. Vincent Primary Care clinic to show their support as their beloved doctor walked out for the last time.

“Family medicine in a small town, that’s what you do, you take care of your people,” Anderson remarked. “I’m a survivor. I’m going to hang in there.”

The 75-year-old says he didn’t plan this departure, it came down to corporate changes.

“There are patients here that need care and now their care is going to be disrupted,” Anderson said.

The medical group’s President Dr. David Foster sent a statement explaining Anderson’s departure.

Dr. Les Anderson has indicated his decision to discontinue his relationship with CHI St. Vincent and service to the community at the medical group’s Primary Care clinic in Lonoke. Since Dr. Anderson notified the medical group that he intended to retire, we have been working with him on a transition plan that would ensure the Lonoke community continues to receive the quality, compassionate care they have come to appreciate from Dr. Anderson and the healthcare providers at our CHI St. Vincent Primary Care clinic there. The new employment agreement offered to Dr. Anderson achieved that goal by keeping him in place for a transition period while adding additional healthcare providers to assist with his patient load. CHI St. Vincent remains committed to the Lonoke community and will work to ensure they continue to have access to comprehensive care and healthcare resources.

Statement from Dr. David Foster

CHI St. Vincent further explained the clinic’s current performance was not sustainable, and that’s when Anderson’s retirement was discussed.

Anderson has a different take on what happened, and says that’s why he walked.

While he leave the clinic behind, Anderson says he’ll find a way to keep taking care of the people who make Lonoke his home.

“I wish the whole thing could have been easier,” he said. “I love what I do I’m going to continue doing it.”

State Rep. Roger Lynch sent a letter to CHI St. Vincent imploring them to keep Anderson on full-time.

CHI St. Vincent says they’re working to find coverage for the clinic.

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