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Psychiatrist’s move leaves a void

Suffolk’s only psychiatrist who sees patients with private insurance has closed her doors.

After 24 years of continual community commitment, Haydeh Esmaili saw her last patient on April 30, and on May 21 the Suffolk Psychiatric Group will be closed to all patients.

“I am hoping and praying that someone will come and continue the work I started here,” Esmaili said. “I’m so sorry to go. I wonder who will take care of my patients who do not have Medicaid. It worries me.”

Esmaili moved from Iran to finish her degree in the United States and attended Eastern Virginia Medical School, where she was chief resident and completed her fellowship.

Her husband was an anesthesiologist in Franklin, so Esmaili opened a practice in Suffolk, where the couple raised three children, who attended Nansemond-Suffolk Academy, ands made their home on a farm a few miles from her Pruden Boulevard office.

For nearly a quarter of a century, Suffolk has been her home, but with all her children grown, Esmaili is moving to Canada to be close to her aging mother.

“My brothers, aunts and cousins are all there, as well,” Esmaili said. “My mother is getting much older. My father passed away a few years ago. You want them to be there forever, but you do what you have to do.”

As a psychiatrist, Esmaili has been helping residents from Suffolk, Franklin, Smithfield and even North Carolina.

“My patients range from four years old to 98,” Esmaili said. “I never discriminated based on insurance. It didn’t matter if you Blue Cross or Medicaid. I also had walk-in clinics and would see anybody who came through my door every third Friday of the month. Sometimes, I was here from 8 a.m. until 9 p.m.”

Esmaili said her philosophy came from an old prayer, “Take care of the kids, because they have a long way to go. Take care of the elderly, because they came a long way, and take care of those in the middle, because they do the work.”

But in her absence, patients needing medication for psychiatric reasons — ranging from attention deficit disorder to schizophrenia — without Medicaid will have to travel to other communities.

“Because Suffolk is such a small town, psychiatrists don’t want to come here,” Esmaili said.

Esmaili said that with good business management, a private practice could be profitable.

Two year ago, Esmaili merged her practice with the Eden Counseling Center — a move she had hoped would result in bringing more psychiatrists to the area.

Instead, because she is leaving, the center is closing the office and moving other counselors and psychologists employed at Esmaili’s office to their other offices in Portsmouth and Virginia Beach.

While Medicaid patients can be treated at Western Tidewater Community Services or be admitted to Sentara’s in-patient unit, there will be a void for patients with insurance.

“She has been part of this community for years now,” said Bob Paull, who has been working with Esmaili since the beginning. “When she leaves, there will be a tremendous void and much anxiety and frustration. Who will people see and how will they get the medicine they need?”