Bill in Texas Legislature could increase medical access in rural communities

By Holley Nees - bio | email

LUFKIN, TX (KTRE) - A Texas House bill proposes a Physician Education Loan Repayment program that would offer incentives for doctors to practice in rural Texas communities.  

Sheryl Godby is a patient at Memorial Medical Center in Livingston.  She said, "In my situation, I have a chronic disease along with several other problems.  If I had to drive all the way to Houston, I would probably die."

Memorial Medical Center in Livingston saved her.

"We take it with great pride to serve our community and Polk County because we know we're the only healthcare facility in Polk County that offers full range of services," said Administrator at Memorial Medical Center at Livingston David LeMonte.

However, some patients in rural East Texas are still left driving for miles to get the care they need.

"I'm the only infectious disease [doctor] in Polk County and I don't know about the surrounding county, but I have patients coming from Beaumont, from Lufkin," said Memorial Medical Center at Livingston Dr. Souad Youssef.

However, Texas Senator Robert Nichols wants healthcare to be at all East Texans' fingertips.   He said, "As a member of the Senate Health and Human Services Committee, I am always looking for ways to improve access to healthcare, especially in medically underserved areas such as East Texas. One of the best ways to encourage increased medical access in underserved areas is to make practicing in these areas affordable and practical. The state is already seeing a huge influx of doctors coming to Texas because of tort reform, and I'm working with my colleagues in the Legislature to find even more creative solutions."

"The people in the big city, you know, they are getting the big help because they have so many doctors there.  Big hospitals, big medical centers and the people who are really in need for us are mainly in the rural area," Dr. Youssef said.

So East Texas waits and hopes for doctors so people like Godby can rest easy.

"There has been times that we know that I would not be here if we had to go even as far as Lufkin I wouldn't make it," Godby said.

Maybe, if she begs for doctors to come, they will.

"Please come, please," she pleaded.

Godby tries to pass the time, thankful to be close to help.

LeMonte said doctors with Memorial continue to reach out to rural communities by setting up clinics in small East Texas towns.   He said anything the legislature can do to attract physicians will be good for their hospital.