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Presidio celebrates opening of new clinic, wave of grant funding


PRESIDIO — Last weekend, Presidio toasted the opening of a new clinic with a street party and ribbon-cutting ceremony. Rick Flores of the Big Bend Regional Medical Center, Presidio Mayor John Ferguson and Ojinaga’s Presidente Municipal Andrés Ramos Deanda were just a few of the local officials in attendance at what they felt was a landmark day in the city’s history.

With an hour-and-a-half ambulance ride to the hospital and limited room at existing clinics, Presidio is regarded as an especially challenged corner of the greater Big Bend region’s healthcare desert.

Last year, the Big Bend Regional Hospital District (BBRHD) announced that Presidio and Terlingua would be the recipients of a major healthcare grant from the USDA. The grant would provide $5.5 million in total funds, with the majority going to Presidio as the bigger population center.

Since February, grant-funded programs have rolled out in stages. The existing Preventative Care Health Services (PCHS) clinic added an after-hours walk-in program in October that sees patients from 3 p.m. to 10 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday. The new clinic — run as a branch of the Big Bend Regional Medical Center (BBRMC) — is open Thursday through Saturday, 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Just a few weeks ago, Presidians were required to attend clinic appointments scheduled far in advance during business hours — or travel hours for care. Local officials hope those days will quickly become a distant memory. “I feel like there’s a bit of a healthcare renaissance going on in Presidio right now,” said BBRHD Executive Director J.D. Newsom.

Since the BBRMC clinic had only been open a few days, BBRHD officials were not able to give authoritative insights into clinic attendance or trends — Grant Administrator Lynette Brehm said that clinic physicians were booked “back to back” the first two days after the opening celebration.
There are still a few kinks to be worked out: the new facility is waiting on x-ray equipment and to formalize plans for an OB-GYN to make regular visits to Presidio. “We’re going to be able to do a lot in that small space, and there’s more coming,” Newsom said.

Brehm and Newsom also announced some exciting changes to the city’s EMS program. Since grant funding took effect in February, first responders were given the opportunity to attain community paramedic certification, allowing them to go door to door and take appointments from patients at home that might not otherwise be served by the new clinics. “It fills that gap of when you need an appointment but can’t get one relatively soon,” Brehm said.

So far, she was thrilled with the connections the “ladies in pink” — named for the pink scrubs the community paramedics wore in addition to their typical first responder garb — were making with elderly and housebound Presidians. In October alone, the ladies in pink made 21 home visits. “The community is really getting to know them,” Brehm said.

The city’s ambulance fleet will also get an upgrade, thanks to Texas Tech University’s Health Sciences Center. Emergency rigs will be outfitted with Starlink satellite services, allowing local personnel to solicit help from more experienced medical professionals on campus in Lubbock.

Newsom said that — though it was too early to project cold, hard numbers — he felt the new programs were a net positive. “Be patient with us — it’s going to be wonderful,” he said.