Rural Clinics Under Review

There's a trend among hospitals to provide convenient service to rural communities. Nacogdoches Memorial Health Systems has three clinics in small towns. The problem is these clinics rarely break even, so from a business standpoint administrators ask questions. They're directing them to the people they serve.

When Darrel Thomas needs medical attention he takes a walk. Always looking out for those in the fast lane. Thomas lives a couple of blocks from the Cushing Health Care Clinic. He walks because he can't drive. Thomas is legally blind.

Thomas points to the clinic he's proud to use. "This is our clinic in the downtown area. It's a double wide trailer that serves as our clinic."

Inside you'll find Gary Norman, Cushing's physician assistant for the last 7 years. He treats colds, flu, does annual exams and physicals. He monitors people with serious diseases. Best of all you won't find a long waiting line in this clinic. Many residents are still in the habit of driving 20 miles to the doctor, even for minor illnesses. Norman said, "So far we've led with a negative cash flow, but they would like to see us somewhere near breaking even."

Administrator Tim Hayward wants rural clinics to survive. He's asking for suggestions at town hall meetings. Memorial Hospital has hosted a meeting in Etoile. On Monday there will be one in Garrison. Cushing will have its opportunity next month. Hayward said some of the suggestions have been financial services, specialist visits and a dental day.

Thomas supports the improvements. "I think we ought to back the clinic. It's been here a number of years. We need it here in Cushing."