Clinics to aid uninsured and low income residents
Two clinics primarily targeting low-income and uninsured individuals are both looking at opening dates in early 2013 in Magnolia.
Joanne Ducharme, director of Community Development with Montgomery County, said Magnolia will become home to the county’s second Public Health Clinic as soon as utility negotiations are finalized with the city. It will be housed in the 8,000-square-foot former county constable’s building off Friendship Drive.
“Magnolia was chosen because it is so underserved,” she said. “When we did a county-wide assessment in 2007, that was one of the biggest things on people’s minds.”
A similar opening date is set for Tomball-based TOMAGWA HealthCare Ministries’ new Magnolia satellite location, which currently shares space with the New Life Pregnancy Center at 218 Smith Road. Executive Director Judy Deyo said negotiations are underway for a 5,700-square-foot space in the Magnolia Landmark Building.
Addressing the need
Based on 2010 U.S. Census information, Montgomery County estimates about 54,000 individuals within a 12-mile radius around Magnolia will be eligible to use the public health clinic, which will be open 12 hours every day, Ducharme said. Although it is a Montgomery County initiative, she said, out-of-county residents will not be turned away.
The clinic will accept both walk-in patients as well as appointments, and it will serve individuals with health insurance as well as the uninsured. It will offer a general practitioner and various specialists who will rotate their schedules. Other services include X-rays, certain lab work on-site and referrals to area specialists if necessary.
“Our clinic in East County is widely popular,” she said. “The [hours] help so people can make appointments at more times, and we can make sure to serve more clients that way.”
Although an official timeline is undetermined for TOMAGWA’s new Magnolia center, Deyo estimated an opening date in the first quarter of 2013.
Right now, TOMAGWA’s Magnolia satellite sees patients only on Monday mornings because of staff constraints. Deyo said with the new office TOMAGWA would hire a full-time nurse practitioner and supporting staff. It will offer services similar to the Tomball location, such as basic, acute and chronic care, but excluding an on-site lab and full pharmacy.
Because TOMAGWA does not accept government funding, it relies on grants, donations and volunteers, and Deyo said the clinic urgently needs more of the latter two. Volunteers are used as patient greeters–receptionists–and help garner community support.
“We want to be a five-day per week clinic and are looking to open with even late evening hours or later in the morning to accommodate for more people,” she said. “We’ll wait to see what the need is, but would like to offer extra hours for people who work.”
Aid for veterans
Also opening in 2013 is the new Tomball Veterans Administration outpatient clinic, set to debut in July. The Houston VA hired Nabholz Construction Services to begin renovating the former Klein Super Market building at 1200 W. Main St. in September, and the final outcome will be a 30,000-square-foot outpatient clinic.
It will provide veterans with primary health care, mental health care, women’s specialty care, phlebotomy, X-ray, telemedicine, teleretinal imaging, optometry and audiology services.
“We want to make sure that health care is easily accessible,” said Bobbi Gruner, communications director with the Houston VA. “Instead of forcing veterans to drive into the Houston area, we’re trying to bring health care closer to them.”
Gruner said Tomball was chosen because research and census data indicated a need, and she projects about 8,000 veterans will be served in its first year.
Only veterans with an honorable discharge are eligible for service, she said, and it will accept walk-in patients as well as appointments.
On the wish list
Although the uninsured and low-income area population continues to see increased resources and clinics available to them, city leaders are concerned there is another population segment being neglected.
At a Sept. 14 meeting between City of Magnolia officials and local realtors and developers, a local emergency center was named as a top priority. Although Tomball Regional Medical Center owns land in Magnolia, marketing director Abbey Lee said there has been no discussion of development.
“Yes, we are appreciative of the services [these clinics] will provide but there is a sector of the public they serve, and I don’t know if any serve the need of middle-class, insured individuals who predominately live in our area,” Mayor Todd Kana said.
A number of family practitioners and other medical professionals are available to such individuals in the community, Kana said, but the absence of a 24-hour medical center not only inconveniences residents who have to drive to The Woodlands or Tomball, but also hinders the city’s ability to attract businesses and homeowners. With no recent discussions between the city and area hospitals, it is uncertain when such a facility would be constructed.