GLEN DALE - After 43 years and 6,000 patients on the books, Dr. Jose J. Ventosa Jr. is closing his pediatric practice in Glen Dale, but it's not what he wants to do.
At 72, Ventosa can retire, but he is healthy and active and very involved in the lives of his patients who now include two and three generations.
"I don't want to retire, but I cannot afford Obamacare. To be able to operate under Obamacare I will need to computerize my patient records which would mean hiring at least two more people and cost more than $40,000 plus upkeep. My wife has handled all of my office work but she would not be able to do this," Ventosa explained.
DR. JOSE J. VENTOSA JR.
Yet, Ventosa, who has been known to open his office to patients on Saturdays and Sundays when necessary, is worried about leaving his patients. He believes there will be even more physicians opting to retire or having their practices purchased by hospitals or health care organizations because of the Obamacare red tape.
"I would certainly entertain the idea of working through a hospital ... anything to be able to continue treating my patients," Ventosa said. "I worry about what will happen to them."
Ventosa said his practice is very large and noted that many local pediatricians are not accepting new patients because of their caseloads.
"I had a father call the other day. He has four children and needs a pediatrician. I am trying to help him but I will be closing the office in a month. This is a big worry to me," Ventosa said last week.
Adding to the demand for pediatricians, Ventosa noted that there are many new families from the gas and oil industry in the area seeking the services of a pediatrician. In one month's time, Ventosa saw 100 new patients including some from Texas, Florida and Oklahoma.
Over the years, he has faced the high cost of medical malpractice insurance and has been involved in court cases on both sides of the legal table. However, he said that is not the problem - Obamacare is.
He said two of his former patients - Dr. Michael Wayt and Dr. Michelle Hess - are now practicing in the area, but will not be able to absorb his patient caseload.
Ventosa, who hails from the Philippines, said he came to West Virginia at a time when there was a shortage of physicians and a greater population here. He said at that time, the coal mines and steel mills were booming, along with the population. "That was when a lot of people had good health insurance," he said, noting that the communities and the physicians prospered. "Today more than half the state is on Medicaid," he added.
Ventosa made a name for himself back in the early 1980s when he cared for a local 2-pound premature baby. Dubbed the "miracle baby," that child is now a healthy adult with two children of his own.
Ventosa said he is the only Spanish-speaking pediatrician in the immediate area and was the first to successfully diagnose Kawasaki disease in a baby locally in 1983. Kawasaki disease is most common among children of Asian descent, but can affect all ethnic groups.
As a neonatologist who specialized in the care of infants for two decades, Ventosa left that specialty to devote his full attention to his private practice in pediatrics.
However, he returned recently to caring for newborns at Reynolds Memorial Hospital in Glen Dale in addition to his office practice.
He also has over the decades, opened his doors to medical residents and has served as teacher and mentor for many. When Ventosa built his medical office in Glen Dale, he included gardens, an outdoor terrace complete with fountain,and skylights and a fireplace in the waiting room. He said his wife Dolores chose the decor and furnishings to give the facility a homey atmosphere.
"I enjoy coming in here every day. I have lived longer here in the United State than in the Philippines. This is my home," he said.
While Ventosa and his wife do not have any children of their own, they worry every day for the thousands of children who have passed through their office door.
"I just don't know what's going to happen now," Ventosa added.