Garth Reid is closing Peninsula Insta Care this week after serving patients for 20 years.
M. Scott Moon
Patients in Kenai and surrounding communities are choking back tears this week, not because they are in pain but because the medical center and medical caretaker they have depended on for years is leaving.
Peninsula Insta Care, located on Willow Street in Kenai, will open its doors for the last time Thursday after 20 years of service. And patients whose families have grown under the watchful and caring eye of the medical center’s physician assistant, Garth Reid, say he won’t be easily replaced.
“I personally feel lost with him leaving,” said Gretchen Alexander, who has been taking her grandchildren to Garth since the clinic opened in 1986.
Alexander said she learned Garth was leaving and the clinic closing after she read an ad the clinic had placed in the newspaper.
“When I first read it I cried, and I called to see if I could talk to him and I was all choked up,” she said. “He’s got a very gentle approach to people, and it makes you feel safe. When you walk in, you just know that he’s going to take care of you. He’s a lovely person.”
Garth and his wife, Gayle Reid, who have been running the clinic since they took it over in 1986, are leaving Alaska to move closer to children and grandchildren in Utah.
Although the Reids are excited about living closer to family, it wasn’t easy to decide to move and leave all of the people they have grown close to in Alaska, Garth said.
“These are just wonderful people. They are salt of the earth people,” he said. “We’ve really come to love and appreciate the good people on the central peninsula.”
Garth did not open Peninsula Insta Care, but took over the medical center the same year it opened. The center is the only local clinic that has been purely walk-in, he said.
Since he took over, the clinic has typically had a staff of about five people, usually including a medical assistant, registered nurse or licensed practical nurse, a receptionist-transcriptionist and Gayle, who has managed the clinic and overseen its drug and urine testing.
Recently the clinic has had a second part-time physician assistant, but sometimes the clinic has gone a couple of years with Garth working as the clinic’s the only one.
At least 80 percent of the clinic’s patients have been regulars, allowing Garth to help raise families as they grow from one generation to the next.
“Twenty years ago I was seeing children that are now parents,” he said.
Alexander said it will be tough to let go of Garth, who has come to know her family so well.
“I’m like, ‘Wait, you can’t go. I’m not through raising these grandkids,’” she said. “I told my daughter, ‘You’ve gotta go get your file. It’s going to be so thick.’”
But patients aren’t the only ones who will miss the Reids.
Elizabeth Peterson, is retiring after working at Peninsula Insta Care as a medical assistant for 15 years. Although she is welcoming retirement and happy for the Reids, she is at the same time sad to see them go.
“It’s a big loss for everyone,” she said. “I think what is so touching is that so many people are coming into the clinic and saying how much they appreciated him. And that’s what touches me, is how much he has given to everybody.”
On top of all the time he has spent at the clinic, Garth also has served about 300 active members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints as bishop for about three years, said Lake Nash, a groundskeeper at the church.
“He likes to help other people,” Nash said. “He does all that he can to help other people.”
Patrice Kohl can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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