January 13, 2020  (Web Review)

The Providers

(2018) 82 min. DVD: $350. Bullfrog Films (www.bullfrogfilms.com). PPR. SDH captioned. ISBN: 1-948745-22-4.

Reviewer rating: 3.0/4

In small-town rural America, doctors and other dedicated healthcare workers serve on the trenches of the frontline of care. Often, their patients are poor, plagued with drug and alcohol abuse, and dealing with the tolls of aging. Filmmakers Anna Moot-Leven and Laura Green’s PBS-aired Independent Lens documentary takes viewers inside the world of rural medicine in northern New Mexico. Here, providers work in understaffed clinics hobbled by frequent employee turnover, while visiting nurses—funded by a pilot program—travel the back roads to see patients afflicted with chronic life-threatening ailments, taking blood pressures, reviewing case histories, and offering supportive listening and hand holding. One male nurse abandoned a trucking life on the road, hoping to make a difference. To be effective, workers must be empathetic, caring, and non-judgmental. Patients often struggle with multiple problems in fractured families, ranging from drug use while pregnant to frequent falls from sobriety. Opioids have found their way to this remote corner of the state (an area ironically called Las Vegas). The healthcare workers describe what drew them to and keeps them in the field, despite discouraging setbacks and the toll it takes on their family and themselves. Eventually, the insurance companies quit the pilot program, leaving the welfare of both patients and workers in doubt. Alternately inspiring, poignant, and depressing, this documentary sheds light on the urgent, unmet medical needs that continue to persist even in a thriving economy. Recommended. Aud: C, P. (S. Rees)