Tenaha clinic provides healthcare to uninsured

By Lane Luckie - bio | email

TENAHA, TX (KTRE) - Many East Texans who need healthcare aren't getting it. The reason may be rising insurance prices. A low-cost clinic in Tenaha is providing basic medical care to thousands of people who might otherwise go untreated.

Inside the Hope Project Clinic, people wait paitiently to see nurse Jean Diebolt.

From sniffles to high fever, no ailment is ignored. Uninsured patients would go unseen elsewhere, but not here. Jean Diebolt said, "They're so grateful. Many of them feel we've saved their lives."

It all started after Diebolt's practice had to turn away a sick child with no insurance. Heartbroken, she turned to church friend Melba Gillis with a proposal. "I'm a nurse practitioner, you're a retiring spanish teacher. We can start a clinic. And I, in my best english, said okay. So we did."

What started out as a whim has grown into a mission, with nearly 5,000 patients. "We moved in here and i saw all these rooms. I felt like we had died and gone to heaven. I couldn't believe it, and now we don't have enough room," said Diebolt.

They are giving working families a chance at healthcare. Little Josh came in with a cough, but left with a smile as big as the alligator on his shirt.

They say it wouldn't be possible without the very community they serve. They are able to stay open because of grants and largely from donations, some from people who can't afford it themselves. "It's a health care safety net, really. They can't afford to go to many other places where a lot more money is charged and they know they can come here and get quality care for low prices," said Gillis.

Jean Diebolt said, "You go to bed at night. You think, you made a difference in somebody's life today. How many people do that?">>

Jean and Melba do, each day.

They hope to keep their mission alive by expanding their services to include affordable dental care and even health and wellness classes, someday in a new facility.