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  In the News - Friday, OCTOBER 15, 2004

The doctor is out
Dr. Molina to close 3R practice

By John Elliott

   It’s a decision he’s struggled with for several years, but the inevitable will occur one week from today. Art Molina, M.D., Three Rivers’s only full-time general practitioner, will close his office after 12 years.
   At first, there may not be an immediate impact because Dr. Molina will still refill some prescriptions and monitor certain patients until Jan. 1, 2005.

Defensive medicine
   After that date, when Dr. Molina’s medical practice insurance expires, it is anybody’s guess as to what will happen. What is certain is that Dr. Molina will no longer be able to advise his hundreds of local patients.

  “There’s going to be a problem because for the first time in many years there’s not going to be a doctor in this office,” said Dr. Molina. “It does not appear that the other local provider [Family HealthCare Network] is going to be taking up the slack.”
   Molina admitted that his closing might not be a problem for some, but for many patients, especially those with little or no insurance coverage, it could lead to serious consequences.

  “I can’t make any specific recommendations,” Molina said. “I’m just telling everybody to check their insurance and then see what’s available down the hill.”
   A 12-year-old girl that Dr. Molina saw last Saturday was a patient in point.

  “In that case, I came down from my place [six miles up South Fork Drive] to see the patient on Saturday because I was here checking my mail anyway,” said Molina. “That saved the family from going to spend four hours in an urgent care waiting room to see a doctor totally unfamiliar with the family or the patient’s history.”

Medical need or corporate greed?
   Molina said for one patient he picked seven doctors from a policy list who were acceptable providers located down in the valley. In all seven, the office was either closed or no longer dealt with that particular insurance company.

  “Patients who have what I call ‘crummy’ insurance are going to be in trouble,” Molina said.
   Although Molina could not cite any particular carrier as the worst, he said that the various policies, and insurance in general, have doctors nationwide stressed out and wanting to retire early or quit.

  “Dealing with insurance companies interferes with being a professional,” Molina said. “I just want to be a doctor, not a businessman.”
   Molina says what lies at the root of the problem is prescription drugs. The large pharmaceuticals are dictating to doctors what drugs to prescribe and what a patient’s insurance will cover.

  “They [the drug companies and insurance carriers] are trying to homogenize medicine,” Molina said. “These are the ones making the big money, not the doctors. Medicine has been put on the marketplace.”
   Molina, a youthful 55, is an old-school doctor who always viewed his profession akin to belonging to a sacred priesthood.

  “I always thought I’m going to be a scientist, a cultural historian, a psychologist; what a great career,” Molina said. “I never wanted to become a neurotic businessman waiting to be inspected, fined, or shut down.”
   So after more than two decades of proud medical service that also included stints in the military and with Los Angeles County public health department, Dr. Molina feels that it is in the best interest of his own health not to continue his practice.
   He says he will continue to work Sundays at an urgent-care clinic in Visalia, affiliated with Kaweah Delta Hospital. But for the rest of the week, he will be content to do chores on his South Fork property and wait until the system implodes.
   To the detriment of Three Rivers residents, generalists like Dr. Molina, especially country doctors, are becoming extinct and no longer able to survive in corporate medicine.

  “I always felt that by being a doctor, I worked for the patient, not the insurance companies,” Molina said. “Private practices like mine are dead. I’m a dinosaur looking for a tar pit.”

Prescribed fire:

BLM to ignite burn

   Case Mountain will be the site of a prescribed fire to be conducted by the Bureau of Land Management. The 190-acre burn, located partly in a giant sequoia grove, will be ignited sometime between today (October 15) and October 31, depending on when the San Joaquin Air Pollution Control District gives the agency the go-ahead based on favorable weather conditions.
   Case Mountain is located about six air miles east of Three Rivers and is accessed from dirt roads in the Salt Creek area or off the Mineral King Road at Oak Grove.
   The burn project is expected to take four days to complete. Fire crews have taken precautions to protect the Case Mountain Grove of giant sequoias from irreparable damage.
   The BLM has had plans to implement this project for the past two seasons, but was forced to postpone them due to adverse weather conditions in both 2002 and 2003.

  “A safe and effective burn is a top priority,” said a BLM spokesperson from the Bakersfield Field Office. “Burning will only commence if conditions are appropriate and full clearance is obtained from the Air District.”

Woodlake PD lieutenant

booked in movie role
Cop cast as bad guy

By John Elliott

   There’s a police officer in Woodlake who’s working hard to look like a stereotypical villain. And, no, it’s not an undercover assignment.
   Recently cast as one of three bad guys in a new movie being filmed in Tulare County — The Visitation — Lt. Hughart said it was quite a coincidence that he landed the part.

  “The production people first came to us [the Woodlake Police Department] looking to use some cars with drivers,” Hughart said. “We thought it would be fun for the department to get involved and help out.”
   Hughart said that in gratitude, he sent along a copy of his book The Place Beyond the Dust Bowl.

  “Evidently, when the director saw my photo on the back cover, he thought I would be just right for the older 50-something bad guy,” Hughart said. “After I was screen tested and measured for wardrobe, the production people told me to let the beard and my hair grow.”
   The movie is based on a book by the same name written by Frank E. Peretti. Peretti has written several books that are in the genre of Christian thriller.
   The Visitation tells the story of a burned-out minister in a small Washington town who must deal with a self-proclaimed messiah who takes over his congregation. This new minister looks like Christ, performs miracles, and has a lot of good Christian folks convinced that he is the real deal.
   Suddenly, there’s a twist of evil that thickens the plot. That’s where Lt. Hughart comes into the tale, cast as one of a trio of bad guys.
   It’s up to the real minister to investigate and reveal what the sinister visitor is really up to and find a way to stop him. Peretti has really perfected his craft in this work by exploring how suffering may lead some to disillusionment with God.
   Filming is scheduled to start at various locales around Tulare County in a couple of weeks. In Woodlake, scenes will be filmed at the Presbyterian Church at Naranjo and Cypress and at Woodlake Hardware on the city’s main street.

  “I wasn’t really looking for a career in Hollywood,” Hughart said. “But I see this opportunity as one of life’s experiences. I’m really excited about making my acting debut.”

Three Rivers flu-shot clinic cancelled

   The flu-shot clinic that was scheduled for November 10 at the Three Rivers Memorial Building, sponsored by the Kings/Tulare Area Agency, has been cancelled due to the nation’s shortage of the vaccine.
   To date, a clinic in Woodlake, scheduled for Friday, Nov. 5, from 1 to 2:30 p.m., at the city’s Senior Center, will still be held. The shots are free and available to high-risk Tulare County residents only.
   Other county clinics will be held in Visalia, Porterville, Tulare, Lindsay, Dinuba, and Earlimart. Proof of age and county residency will be required.
   The flu kills 36,000 Americans every year. Senior citizens are especially vulnerable, along with infants and those with chronic illnesses.

Valley weavers gather for fall show

   Handweavers of the Valley will present their 25th annual Harvest of Handwovens on Saturday, Oct. 30, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., at the Exeter Memorial Building, 324 N. Kaweah Ave. (Highway 65).
   The day’s event will feature the work of 25 local handweavers. The show and sale will include beautiful handwoven and handspun articles such as towels, scarves, throws, rugs, jackets, coasters, and baby blankets. A fashion boutique, yarn shop, and displays of supplies and tools will be offered. Spinning and weaving demonstrations will be held all day and guests can try their hand at a loom.
   Exquisite pine needle baskets and weaving on gourds will also be featured. Basket-making will be demonstrated against a backdrop of completed, award-winning work.
   Handweavers of the Valley is a guild of weavers and spinners with members from Bakersfield to Squaw Valley, Three Rivers, Hanford, and Lemoore.
   Many of the members are from the Porterville and Springville area. Porterville Community College offers a weaving class that meets at Sequoia Dawn in Springville.
   The guild was formed in 1953 to exchange ideas and show woven items. The objectives of the bylaws are to promote handweaving, to foster growth in weaving skills by sharing, and to help those with physical disability who could develop through the art of weaving.
   In recent years, interest has been expanded to include spinning, basket making and weaving on gourds.
   The Harvest of Handwovens contributes to the guild’s goal of public awareness of the fine craft of handweaving and serves as an educational experience for those wishing to learn more about the ancient art.
   There will be door prizes awarded throughout the day and a drawing featuring a large basket of handmade kitchen items. Tickets may be purchased at the sale for the basket, but the winner need not be present at the drawing.
   In 2007, Handweavers of the Valley will host the biennial Conference of Southern California Handweavers in Visalia.
For more information, call Nikki Crain at (559) 561-4048.

Eagles fly over Tigers, 46-0

By John Elliott

   Last Friday night, the tough-luck Woodlake Tigers (0-5) were roughed up by the Immanuel (Reedley) Eagles (3-2) at Leo Robinson Field.
   It was the second consecutive East Sequoia League loss for the youthful Tigers.

  “After we went 7-5 last season, expectations were high for us to win this year,” said Coach Costa. “But with only two returning seniors, it’s really been a struggle for us to get our first win.”
   The lack of seniors has translated to inexperience that is apparent on both sides of the ball.

  “I guess if you wanted to find some good news, just look at the job the offensive line has been doing,” said Costa. “We’ve had the time to throw, but we’re just not making the plays.”
   The Tigers had ample opportunity to score on the Eagles, but the offense failed to execute. In a two-minute stretch of the second quarter, the Tigers intercepted a pass and recovered a fumbled punt deep inside Eagle territory.
   After both defensive takeaways, however, the offense stalled. Tiger quarterback Ryan Baker, a sophomore, eventually left the game in the second half with a concussion.
   Second-team QB and running back Jose Duran also suffered an injury; this time a separated shoulder. When the Tigers attempted to break the shutout with a field goal in the final seconds, a lineman jumped off sides and botched that play.

  “As bad is looks out there, we still have five games to play and these guys are not about to quit,” said Costa. “We’re young, we’re enthusiastic, and we’re working hard.”
   On Monday, the entire Tiger team went out to see Friday Night Lights, a new movie about the Texas brand of high school football.

  “Our grades are good, we’re strong in the weight room… these are great kids,” said Costa. “We’re losing with winners and I’m proud of all our players.”
   In the JV game, the Eagles also pummeled their Tiger counterparts, 34-0.

  “Our guys just didn’t come to play tonight,” said one of the JV assistant coaches.

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