Milam County hospitals closed in 2018, leaving many residents now anxious during the COVID-19 outbreak

Posted at 6:24 PM, Apr 09, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-09 23:07:40-04

MILAM COUNTY, TX — Much of the early fear of the COVID-19 pandemic centered on hospitals reaching capacity and not able to care for new patients.

Well, imagine if you lived in a place with no hospitals and no medical safety net whatsoever.

The hospitals in both Cameron and Rockdale suddenly closed at the end of 2018 leaving this county with only a handful of doctors offices and a volunteer fire department for medical care.

Scary enough in regular times, but when the coronavirus hit, families like Lachalle Reeves, took quick action.

"I don't let my kids go out into the public, they don't go to stores. I have a face mask that I wear when I go out and I wear gloves and all those kinds of things right now," she explained.

Milam County's handful of doctors had to get creative and turn their offices into mini hospitals.

"Here you have to be.... a little more.... 'gutsy'," explained Dr. Janelle House who runs a family medical practice in Thorndale.

Her office sees patients from their car, with the aid of a nurse in protective clothing.

And Dr. House has to put her medical skills to serious use to determine if people here need to make a 30 to 90 minute trip to the nearest hospital.

”A lot of times you have to use your best clinical judgment on, well, does this person really need to go to the emergency room," she said.

Meantime, County Judge Steve Young preached the gospel of sheltering in place early-on, knowing Milam County had no medical safety net.

"You know I can't fix this; the county can't fix this; government can't fix this; you can fix this,” he said.

Because if the coronavirus makes anyone very sick, it could make for a very frantic and long drive to the next county and it's hospital.

"It would be very scary and my mind would be racing and... I'm just hoping I don't have to make that drive," said Reeves.

People here say by going to extra lengths to abide by health and cleanliness guidelines, they can make it through the coronavirus pandemic without the need for a hospital.