Beloved Doctor Closes Up Shop — Victim of HMOification

Doctor Clara Eden, 41, has closed the medical practice
that she operated for seven years on Piedmont Street, and
many of her approximately 2,000 patients believe they will
be unable to find anyone to take her place.
As often as not they have to speak through tears when
asked about this loss. Eden herself can’t refrain from
crying when discussing her decision.

Putting in 60-hour weeks, working through holidays
and school-closings, and being available to her patients
around the clock, in the office or at their homes, has not
allowed Eden enough time with her husband and with her
son, Ben Eden, who will be 8 in March and attends the
second grade at St. Luke’s.
Dr. Eden is going to work from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. on
Friday, Saturday, and Sunday nights at Culpeper Memorial
Hospital. This will leave the rest of the week free for Ben,
as well as allowing his mother to avoid the amount of
paperwork required of a doctor in a single practice —
something that has grown worse, Eden said, with the rise
of HMOs and PPOs. Eden made her practice part of the
University of Virginia in 1997, hoping to make the
operation easier. She declined to comment on whether that
hope was satisfied.
Lee Kirk, CEO of Culpeper Memorial Hospital, is happy
to have Eden coming to work there in a new position. But
he’s probably not nearly as excited about this change as is a
certain 7-year-old.
Are you glad your Mom’s changing jobs?
“YES! [nearly a scream],” Ben Eden said in an
interview last month.
Why?
“Because I don’t have to do my homework when I first
get home [at 5:30 or 6 p.m. following daycare after school,
which now won’t be needed]. . . . I’ll believe it on
February 1st.”
Has your Mom been busy?
“Yes! Y! E! S! Yes!”
What will you do?
“Umm. Oh, go to a water park! . . . I’m thinking this is
all a dream.”
On weekends, Ben will spend time with his Dad, Doug
Eden, while his Mom sleeps, but she has promised — and a
pinkie-promise at that — to go to important soccer games.
Do you want to be a doctor, Ben?
“Definitely no. It might look good on the outside, but it
looks horrible on the inside.”

*****
Brenda Johnson works at the Culpeper Baptist
Retirement Community and has been a patient of Eden’s.
“I’m not happy about it,” she said. “She’s wonderful.
She really really really is. I had been so pleased when I
found her. She’s always there when you call her. I have
asthma and it acts up whenever it wants to. I really am
going to miss her.
But I can appreciate that she’s got a young son who
needs some of her time and all. . . . A lot of her patients
will not be happy. She’s a wonderful doctor and a
wonderful person.”
Johnson said Eden was the first doctor she found who
could devise a therapy for her asthma that works almost all
the time. And the times when it hasn’t, Eden has been there
to help.
“I called at some really weird times . . . She’s going to
be a real asset to the hospital. An excellent doctor and
person is hard to find sometimes today, as busy as
everyone is. She takes time, and it makes a difference. A
number of the residents here go to her and think she’s
wonderful.”
Johnson spoke to another woman who works at the
retirement community, and a few minutes later Donna
Frazier telephoned the Culpeper News.
What will you do now, Frazier was asked.
“Cry,