“Access”: Improving Health Care Access in California’s Central Valley, Part 1: Adventist Healthcare’s Service to the San Joaquin Valley

One the second and third days of the 28th National Conference on Primary Health Care Access (to be held April 10-12, 2017 at the Hyatt Regency New Orleans), the program will center on strategic initiatives, sponsored by health professions educational systems, mission-oriented healthcare institutions, state and local governments, and federal programs through the Department of Health and Human Services.

Such initiatives include long-term strategies to build a workforce and institutional base for effective primary health care systems in rural and underserved areas.

Adventist Health Systems’ Strategic Initiatives in Medically Underserved Areas

White Memorial Medical Center's service area, East Los Angeles, California
White Memorial Medical Center’s service area, East Los Angeles, California

Previous National Conferences have devoted several sessions to the success of the Adventist Health Systems efforts to establish a viable primary healthcare workforce in the Latino neighborhoods of East Los Angeles and Eastern Los Angeles County.

The cornerstone of these efforts is the White Memorial Medical Center Department of Family Medicine’s residency training program in family medicine, described by Hector Flores, MD, at the very first of the National Conference on Primary Health Care Access in April 1990 [see First National Conference on Primary Health Care Access (4th Plenary Panel, Part 2, Flores).

Adventist Medical Center, Hanford, California
Adventist Medical Center, Hanford, California

Another Adventist Health Systems’ initiative is the network of rural health clinics throughout the agricultural counties of the San Joaquin Valley, the Southern part of California’s Great Central Valley.

Such strategies are aimed at  improving access to care and physician recruitment and retention to better serve the communities in the Central Valley.

Derrick Gruen; Adventist Health Systems, Hanford, California
Derrick Gruen; Vice President
Adventist Health Systems Central Valley Region, Hanford, California

A presentation on this initiative will be made by the Regional Vice President, Derrick J. Gruen, PT, DPT, MALOS and the Medical Director, Adalberto Renteria, MD, for the Adventist Health Central Valley Region.

Their presentation will cover the challenges of delivering quality health care in a geographically dispersed rural health clinic system.

The Central Valley of California is one of the world’s most productive agricultural regions.

The counties that comprise it – including Kern, Kings, Tulare, Fresno and Madera Counties – have historically suffered chronic shortages of physicians, in both primary and specialty care.

Adalberto Renteria, MD; Medical Director, Adventist Health Systems
Adalberto Renteria, MD;
Medical Director, Adventist Health Systems Central Valley Region, Hanford, California

Medicaid patients and those who “self pay” include a high proportion of agricultural farmworkers and their families, have had to be referred to the distant cities of Los Angeles and San Francisco for specialty care.

The Adventist Healthcare Systems’ initial commitment to the Central Valley dates from 1993. By 2005 the organization was operating 18 licensed healthcare clinics.

Dr. Gruen oversees multiple departments across  including Adventist Health Community Care Clinics (Rural Health).

His responsibilities also include Physician Recruitment and Retention, and oversight of the Adventist Health Systems’ “Physician 1206L Foundation Clinics” a special category of hospital-affiliated community-based multispecialty practices established by California law.

The Community Care Clinics are a network of 36 licensed rural health clinics with 160+ physician partners, covering a service area of 4000 square miles, providing a safety net to the underserved in the Central Valley of California. It is the largest hospital-based rural health clinic system in California and the second largest in the nation. 

Dr Renteria serves as the Adventist Health Systems Regional Medical Director for Central California. HImself the product of a family engaged in agriculture (he has personal experience in grape harvesting, while his father’s long career was devoted to vineyard management in the Napa Valley), Dr Renteria has insight into farmworker’s health and social needs and rapport with the farmworker families that the Adventist rural clinics serve.

The National Conferences are invitational. For information on the invitation process, contact William H. Burnett at [email protected]