Doctor who was disciplined now plans new Moorhead clinic

MOORHEAD - A physician is seeking to redevelop a building near downtown and convert it into a prototype clinic aimed at serving patients in a convenient and affordable manner.The Moorhead City Council approved a $12,600 tax exemption for Dr. Rodn...
In this photo from The Forum's archives, Dr. Rodney Lee talks with a patient at the Rapid Care Clinic, 1517 32nd Ave. S., Fargo. The clinic has since been taken over by Essentia Health, and Lee is planning to open another clinic in Moorhead. Dave Wallis / The Forum

MOORHEAD - A physician is seeking to redevelop a building near downtown and convert it into a prototype clinic aimed at serving patients in a convenient and affordable manner.

The Moorhead City Council approved a $12,600 tax exemption for Dr. Rodney Lee to open the new walk-in clinic at 1002 1st Ave. N., slated to open in the spring.

The Minnesota Board of Medical Practice gave Lee a reprimand in 2008 after finding that he inappropriately prescribed controlled substances. Lee was the founder of several Rapid Care clinics, with locations in Fargo and Moorhead, but he sold the clinics after the disciplinary action. The North Dakota Board of Medicine revoked Lee's license in 2008, but the Minnesota Board of Medical Practice reinstated his license without conditions in November 2016.

For his new clinic, Lee plans to partly demolish and redevelop the former Quick Lube and Tune site. If approved, construction will start this month, with completion estimated in March. Plans call for two or three examination rooms, a lobby, storage and restrooms.

In a novel approach for the area, Lee said the clinic's pricing options will include "low walk-in" fees or memberships with monthly fees.

At a City Council meeting on Monday, Dec. 11, Councilwoman Heidi Durand asked Lee if his past issues had been resolved, and he said they have been. In information provided to The Forum, Lee said he plans to serve as a medical doctor at only one clinic, though hopes to franchise his approach to affordable, walk-in care.

Lee said his Rapid Care clinics, the first of which opened in 2002, were intended to pioneer convenient and affordable primary care.

"That's exactly what we did," he said in a statement. "However, becoming extremely busy led not only to building several clinics, but I became vulnerable because of the high visibility of having 40,000 patients in this small region and because of regularly attending to large numbers of chronic pain patients, although not by my design."

Lee said he chose not to defend himself before the North Dakota Board of Medicine in 2008, "for reasons that involve many complex medico-political reasons," and had to abandon his nationwide franchise plan for his newly trademarked 7 Day Clinic, which was backed by an investment group.

In an interview, Lee said he has no plans to open any clinics or to practice in North Dakota. He said he moved to Fargo several months ago, and has worked in emergency medicine in southern Minnesota since his license was reinstated.

Before returning to the area, Lee worked overseas doing medical mission work, including time spent in Thailand. When he returned to the area, he said he once again saw primary care that was too costly, with "nearly unaffordable high insurance deductibles."

Lee said he might have to limit membership to 500 patients at each clinic site because he plans to offer "unlimited access" for the "outrageously low price" of $50 a month, access to affordable care he says is his "mission" to provide.

"Common medicines will be available to patients for purchase only at my cost," he said. "No pain medicines will be available for purchase."

Any additional clinics will be owned by a medical provider under a franchise agreement. Lee predicts his clinic could spread, via franchisees, to Fargo or West Fargo.

Forum reporter Kim Hyatt contributed to this report