A doctor returns to Boykins

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, July 17, 2007

BOYKINS—Four months after the town threw a farewell party for its beloved Dr. Cindy Ripsin, Boykins finally has a doctor again.

Dr. Francis Taylor has bought the building and the Boykins Family Practice name, has re-hired the staff that left the business during its brief ownership by Urgent Care Centers Inc. and has begun repairing relationships with patients.

Taylor also has a medical office in Conway, N.C., where he had begun seeing former Boykins Family Practice patients in recent months.

&uot;It’s been kind of a trying time for people in Boykins,&uot; he said Monday. &uot;We were seeing a lot of these folks in Conway, but it’s kind of hard, because when you cross state lines your insurance changes.&uot;

During the time since Ripsin sold her practice, patients and town leaders watched as local medical care became less and less accessible, to the point where it was entirely unavailable for about a month, when the business was closed.

Plans at the time of the sale called for a combination of urgent care and traditional family doctor services to be available in the Virginia Avenue building, near the town hall. Closing the doors marked a major detour from those plans.

&uot;I know Dr. Ripsin never in her wildest dreams thought we would end up with this situation,&uot; Francis said.

Instead of the stepped-up level of service the Atlanta company had promised—with extra staff and more diagnostic equipment—Boykins wound up with a part-time doctor from Williamsburg, who eventually gave up, overwhelmed by the workload of a clinic with a diminishing staff.

In the end, even the equipment was taken from the building, according to Taylor, who said he &uot;kind of scrounged&uot; to find the items needed to re-open the shuttered medical practice about two weeks ago. The computer system still hasn’t been replaced, he said, &uot;but we’ve got enough stuff to to see patients.&uot;

Closing the clinic caused hardships for both patients and other businesses in Boykins, Taylor said. &uot;In a small town, everybody is dependent on everybody else,&uot; he explained. &uot;If you lose one piece of that puzzle, I think it impacts everything.&uot;

The fear of that domino effect was part of what prompted town leaders to begin courting Taylor early in the spring.

Members of the Boykins Lions Club approached him when it became clear to them that access to local medical care was declining. Soon after, the town council voted to allow the J.W. Pope Building, next to the town office, to be rented to Taylor.

&uot;We felt like it would be helpful to the town to get a doctor there,&uot; Mayor Spier Edwards said.

An inspection of the building revealed that it would need some plumbing work in order to be made ready as a medical office. Before that work could be done, though, Boykins Family Practice was shuttered, and the building became available.

Taylor then bought the building from the Atlanta group, along with the business’ name, though the company held onto the actual practice, allowing it to keep the medical equipment.

After two weeks in Boykins, Taylor is trying to look to the future, rather than the past.

&uot;I think the big thing in a small town like this is just to be open to see folks,&uot; he said. To that end, the office is staffed all day during the week, though Taylor is only in during afternoons. Eventually he hopes to supplement his own hours with a nurse practitioner so that patients can be seen 40 hours a week.

A Northampton County, N.C., native, Taylor attended medical school at East Carolina University. He completed his residency in Greenville and Ahoskie, N.C., in 2000.

He has children attending Southampton Academy, and he and his family are hoping to move from Murfreesboro, N.C., to the county to be closer to work and school.

The clinic’s new phone number is 654-9111.