Hamburg Chiropractic Clinic closes after 23-years

Kirt Manion
Hamburg Reporter

A 23-year-old Hamburg business officially said goodbye earlier this week as the chiropractic practice of Dr. Michael Gallagher closed its doors—a victim of back-to-back natural disasters, a flood, followed by a pandemic.

Dr. Gallagher opened his practice in Hamburg in 1997 and built a practice that drew patients from at least three states. Iowans were joined by Nebraskans from Nebraska City, Brock, Johnson and beyond, as well as Missourians from Rock Port, Tarkio, Mound City and more.

Dr. Gallagher built long-lasting relationships with customers who preferred to come to his practice over the many others they could have chosen from, many of those being a lot closer to home.

When flood waters invaded Hamburg in March of 2019, Dr. Gallagher’s building took damage. He lost equipment and had his practice severly disrupted.

“Patients couldn’t get to me because the roads were all closed,” said Dr. Gallagher.

Despite that trama, the practice went on and the efforts to help residents continued, albeit at a different location.

Dr. Gallagher returned his practice to Sidney, a city where he had operated a satellite clinic early on in the business before deciding to consolidate in Hamburg. During his flood relocation to Sidney, the practice remained under the name of Hamburg Chiropractic.

Dr. Gallagher had every intention of going back home.

He worked with the city to apply for state funds that would help him re-open. He was making progress and prospects for getting the practice up and running soon were improving.

That ended with COVID-19.

On March 20, 2020, two days later than the March 18,2019 flood related disruption, Dr. Gallagher was forced into a hiatus. The threat of spreading coronavirus was simply too high. And Dr. Gallagher was far from the only one in his profession to have to make such a decision.

The flood, which took as much as 50 percent of Dr. Gallagher’s clientele, already had the business in recovery mode. The COVID-19 financial punch would prove to be too much.

Looking back, Dr. Gallagher said the flood caused some patients to leave him because they needed treatment and couldn’t wait for the roads to re-open. The practice sat idle for a few months, into July of 2019, before Dr. Gallagher could get things going again in Sidney. And, even when operational, the practice did less business because equipment lost in the flood forced Dr. Gallagher to eliminate some of the services he could offer.

When COVID-19 came around, and the business closed, Dr. Gallagher kept hoping for good news—something that would be game-changing. Iowa’s Governor Kim Reynolds identified chiropractic care as being essential, but opening right back up was not really an option.

Dr. Gallagher said his age, 73, and his health status, one complicated by asthma, caused significant pause. He would definitely fall into the high risk group for COVID-19.

And so, in the end, closing the practice was determined to be the right course of action, maybe the best course of action. The practice had lost business in what is usually one of its best quarters of the year. The funds no longer existed to keep going.

Right choice and best choice are two different things here. Dr. Gallagher had hoped to have a thriving practice that he could sell to a new chiropractor who could keep all the great relationships going. That would have been best. Due to COVID-19 and the flood, the client base didn’t support such an idea anymore. If a new doctor were to come in, he or she would be starting from scratch.

“We are sad about it,” Dr. Gallagher said.

It’s more depressing considering the desire of everyone back in Hamburg to have him back. The city really was anxious to see Hamburg Chiropractic back going as it should be, and, no doubt, Dr. Gallagher’s patients were excited to get back there too.

But it just wasn’t to be. Dr. Gallagher wanted to have hope, to believe it would work out, but considering the financial pressure on the practice, the idea of taking state money to revamp his Hamburg building didn’t seem right. Such an investment would need to be met with a commitment to practice for some time. And, with all that’s going on right now, and the uncertainty of the world around us, that’s virtually impossible to guarantee.

Saying goodbye is the toughest part. These patients were more than just names in an appointment book.

“It’s like saying goodbye to old friends,” said Dr. Gallagher.