Sandoval Signpost


An independent monthly newspaper serving the community since 1988

Alan Firestone

Firestone speaks on history of healthcare in SE Sandoval County

—Elaine Sullivan

El Pueblo Health Center is a private, nonprofit center primarily serving the health care needs in the communities of Bernalillo, Algodones, and Placitas. Before 1975, healthcare in southeastern Sandoval County was provided by the Southwest Cooperative Medical Services, which was funded by Presbyterian Medical Group and St. Joseph’s Hospital. In 1975, the Bernalillo Development Group took it over and filed an application to the National Health Service for support and help in their search for a medical director.

Our community is very fortunate that a young doctor named Alan Firestone was just completing his residency in North Carolina and took the opportunity to come to New Mexico. In 1976, Dr. Firestone moved his young family to a very rural Placitas and became medical director of what became El Pueblo Health Center and was virtually the only doctor in this area of Sandoval County.

Initially the clinic was part of the National Health Service Corps, and it was very rudimentary. The staff consisted of Dr. Firestone and a nurse practitioner. There were many learning challenges in dealing with the diverse population in New Mexico, learning Spanish, among other things. In addition to being medical director of the clinic, Dr. Firestone provided home-medical services and emergency services such as fire and rescue. He performed these functions while facing major challenges in the areas of communication, transportation, and even water and electricity. His memories of this period are fascinating.

In l987, El Pueblo Health Services became a private nonprofit practice with some state grant support. Dr. Firestone remained medical director until July, 2013, and is still a member of the board. El Pueblo’s new medical director is Dr. Steven Hartman.

Dr. Firestone has many stories to share about the early days in the Placitas area and the many interesting experiences he faced providing emergency medical services with the fire brigades, going on house calls, and generally providing medical care with limited electric service and even more limited telephone service in our area in the 1970s and thereafter.

Come to the Placitas Community Library on September 12, at 2:00 p.m., to hear Dr. Firestone speak about the evolution of healthcare in our community.

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