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Behind the Scenes


Rural Medicine
Produced by Pat McConahay

Willows, California is a sleepy little town with a big reputation: "Rice Capital of the World." It's the kind of town that conjures up thoughts of an earlier age. Traffic jams are unheard of. Life is simple -- or so it seems. Simplicity disappears for residents of Willows when it comes to getting adequate medical care. The town in rural Glenn County is a symbol of what's occurring in small communities throughout California. They are in danger of losing their only hospital.

Enloe Medical Center in Chico, which operates Glenn, announced in early 2002 that within weeks it would severely reduce services for financial reasons. The announcement shocked residents -- and Willows Memorial Auditorium was the scene of a heated public meeting.

County Supervisor Denny Bungarz says he's making it his mission to keep the hospital open because of what it means to the County. But Enloe officials say they've has a tough time breaking even since taking over the long-struggling Glenn Medical in 1995. They blame it on factors that are out of their control.

Glenn Medical Center opened in1950, and today remains the only medical facility in Glenn County. It also provides the only 24-hour emergency services on heavily traveled Interstate 5 between Redding and Woodland. Patients are often stabilized at Glenn before being airlifted to other hospitals, including Chico's Enloe -- a 45-minute drive away. In addition to the emergency services, the hospital offers a family care clinic, a lab, and x-ray. But Chief of Staff Dr. Dennis Galvon says that despite the services Glenn provides, small hospitals have become obsolete.

Galvon adds that today's medical advancements keep people out of the hospital, and more services are provided on an outpatient basis. Glenn Medical isn't the only rural hospital on the critical list. More than 20 percent of them have either closed or filed bankruptcy in the last three years, according to the California Healthcare Association.

What about the future of rural hospitals like Glenn? Residents have said loud and clear that they want their emergency room to be there when they need it. Enloe Medical Center and Glenn County officials are working on an agreement to keep the Medical center open in the short term. At the same time, they are deciding what level of care to provide in the future, and in what kind of facility. These are issues that all rural hospitals are grappling with. In the long run, it will take a partnership of local communities, as well as state and federal policymakers, to find the solutions.


Denny Bungarz
Glenn County Supervisor

Dr. Dennis Galvon
Chief of Staff, Glenn Medical Center

Sharon Avery
Exec. Director, Rural Healthcare Center


The complete text of New Valley Episode 107 -- The Heartbeat of Healthcare...


Presentation also made possible by a grant from
the Great Valley Center


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