After nearly 24 years practicing medicine in Franklin County, Apalachicola family practitioner Dr. Miniat appears to have closed up shop.
Franklin County commissioners learned Jan. 15 that Miniat is past due on his rent of a county-owned building, and had a notice on his office door that he had relocated his practice to Blountstown.
“If Dr. Miniat is not going to see patients in the county-owned building, then Weems Hospital would like to right to inspect the property and make a proposal to the county to relocate its new Weems West Clinic into the building,” Alan Pierce, the county’s director of administrative services, told county commissioners. “Currently the Weems West Clinic is housed in the hospital and there are not enough exam rooms to serve the patient load.”
Beginning Jan. 29, 2001, Miniat first began seeing patients at the former county health department building, at 137 12th Street. He did this under the terms of a rental agreement that called for him to pay $1,200 per month, the equivalent of $1,121.50 per month plus sales tax.
That lease expired Jan. 28, 2002, and since that time, Miniat had paid the county month-to-month under the terms of the expired lease. About two years ago, when the county struck a deal to lease the former Chapman Schools building to Apalachicola cardiologist Dr. Shezad Sanaullah, the county decided to have Miniat also pay for utilities at the leased office space.
Erin Griffith, assistant finance officer, said Miniat’s last rental payment was in September 2012 for the month of August. She said it was not unusual for Miniat to pay his rent in portions that covered past months, or groups of several months.
Weems CEO Ray Brownsworth said the current Weems West clinic, which has only one exam room, can only see about 10 to 20 patients per day and needed to be seeing 20 to 25. Also showing interest in the vacant property was Ida Elliot, superintendent of elections, who emailed county commissioners to say she would be willing to move into Dr. Miniat’s office as well. The building she is in is not county-owned, and could be sold at any time.
According to Aaron Keller, public information specialist for the Florida Department of Health, “Dr. Stephen Miniat never notified the department of the closing of his practice. However, we do encourage patients seeking their medical records to send a certified letter to their doctor, and follow the appropriate complaint process if necessary.”
According to rules governing the state medical profession, physicians who terminate or relocate their practice, or when it is “no longer available to patients,” these patients are to be notified of such termination, sale, or relocation and unavailability by publishing a four-week notice in the newspaper of greatest general circulation in each county in which the physician practices or practiced and in a local newspaper that serves the immediate practice area.
A copy of this notice shall also be submitted to the Board of Medicine within one month from the date of termination, sale, or relocation of the practice. The licensed physician may, but is not required to, place a sign in a conspicuous location on the facade of the physician’s office or notify patients by letter of the termination, sale, or relocation of the practice.
Miniat, a 1986 graduate of the University of Texas Southwestern medical school, completed his family medicine residency at the University of Alabama at Huntsville. He is certified by the American Board of Family Medicine.