Article distorts Enloe’s contribution

CEO: Hospital doing what it can to deal with a broken health-care system

The author is CEO of Enloe Medical Center in Chico.

I don’t want anyone to lose sight of the main purpose of Leslie Layton’s article “Guerrilla health care” [Healthlines, April 7]. The Shalom Free Clinic is truly a wonderful and humane program, deserving of all the support our community can give. However, I also feel compelled to respond to Layton’s not-so-subtle commentary on Enloe Medical Center’s billing practices and the “profit motive” in health care.

To begin, Enloe has a long-standing community-service program available to help avoid sending our patients down the “road to financial ruin.” The relevant statements in the article are that the Shalom clinic directed a patient to the hospital because the health-care professional understood that Enloe would take care of her regardless of her ability to pay. As the article points out, the visit to Enloe “saved her life.”

Regarding the subsequent billing, I would be more than happy to explain the laws, regulations and insurance contracts that determine how we bill and collect, and what social services and community assistance we provide to patients in financial need. Our intentions and our mission are to do right by our community and take care of those in need.

Layton also makes the comment that the Shalom clinic “is a stunning example of what can happen in health care when the profit motive is absent.” I would rephrase that to read that the clinic is a stunning example of what can happen when dedicated individuals volunteer their services for free. The term “profit motive” used in this context appears intended to imply that some greedy capitalist is lining his or her pockets on the misery of others. That is simply not true in Chico.

It is not ethically wrong for our doctors and nurses to get paid for what they do, and it is certainly not wrong for a nonprofit hospital to try to earn enough money to replace equipment and meet state and federal requirements. Enloe Medical Center will write off more than $18 million in charity care this year, and a great many of our independent clinicians routinely provide free care to their patients—quietly and often without fanfare.

We do what we can to compensate at the local level for the deficiencies of a broken health-care system, and the Shalom Free Clinic is perhaps among the best and most lofty examples of that. However, we have other examples as well. To imply otherwise does a disservice to the many health-care practitioners in our community, including Enloe Medical Center.