Medical providers roll in to rural communities where health care access is limited

NATALIA, Texas – South Texas Rural Health Services saw an increased need during the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic and has continued to roll in medical services to rural towns where health care is much needed. However, the lack of awareness is still a challenge in these communities.

Anissa Ramirez said she wasn’t feeling well during work and was able to leave her job at Natalia ISD and be seen by a nurse without having to drive miles to a clinic.

“It’s very convenient that I didn’t have to go out of my way to go get checked out or anything,” she said.

Ramirez said she usually drives an hour to San Antonio to be seen by a health care provider. But on this day, it was as easy as walking out to the mobile unit parked outside the school district.

“It’s convenient for anybody who doesn’t have immediate access to a doctor,” she said.

Ana Zamora, chief development officer with South Texas Rural Health Services, said while it’s a great convenience, getting the word out hasn’t been as easy.

“We service several rural counties in South Texas, and we do have clinic sites. But in between those counties, there’s other small towns that don’t have clinics,” she explained.

The mobile units started as a service to communities during the pandemic. But they have continued to provide shots, wellness checks, and now even mental health services because the need is great in rural areas, Zamora said.

“In rural communities, people struggle with transportation. There’s a lot of individuals that live on ranches, that live out of the inner town area. So to have them travel to the nearest clinic sometimes is a burden,” she said.

The South Texas Rural Health Services monthly calendar lists places where the mobile unit can be found and the types of services patients can get.

The locations include Cotulla, Natalia, Carrizo Springs, and Dilley ISDs campuses as part of a partnership between medical providers and organizations like UIW and the University of Texas.

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