IN-DEPTH: Waiting an hour for ambulance without a nearby hospital

Rockdale Hospital
Dark hallways at Riverdale Hospital
Judith Mutula
Steve Young
Virtual Healthcare
Surgery room sits empty
Cameron, Texas
Posted at 7:07 AM, Sep 21, 2021
and last updated 2021-09-28 09:08:18-04

CENTRAL TEXAS — Rural America brings a peaceful life in many ways.

"I'm telling you, it was a great hospital with great people," said Milam County resident Judith Matula.

Cameron, Texas
Milliam county is a medical desert, at times it now takes over an hour for an ambulance.

Now the county is without a hospital and down to three ambulances for 25,000 residents.

When Judith's husband was non-responsive she called 911 and found herself in the middle of a healthcare shortage.

"I needed to call an ambulance and around an hour later they finally came," said Matula.

Judith is in her 70s and her husband is in his 80s. The couple had first-hand experience of the Healthcare Crisis in the rural areas of America.

In 2018 Little River Healthcare filed for bankruptcy, which forced the closure of several hospitals, including in Rockdale and Cameron.

Steve Young
Miliam County Judge Steve Young has been looking for unique ways to help the county with medical care.

Milam County Judge Steve Young says the issue is frustrating.

"It’s a combination of things," Young said. " There's a shortage of paramedics, frankly, they’re not paying the paramedics enough here."

The latest Census data shows the median income for the county is $25,714, with a 16 percent poverty rate.

Dark hallways at Riverdale Hospital
The hospital now sits dark in Rockdale. The nearest hospital care is 45 minute to an hour away.

Twenty-one percent of the population is over the age of 65 -- with the nearest hospital 45 minutes to an hour away.

"Now we are going to Temple and wait to get the patient out of the ambulance into the hospital because of the COVID situation," said Young.

There is a clinic in Rockdale to treat your basic minor health issues.

Virtual Healthcare
In Cameron at the county jail is a spot for people to see a doctor virtually. They are able to get basic medications and healthcare.

In Cameron, you can see a Virtual Health Care Specialist that is located at the county jail.

The county judge understands it's not a fix but hopes it helps the community.

Judith Mutula
Judath Mutula called 911 after finding her husband non responsive. It took nearly two hours to get him to the hospital.

Judith Mutla is now finding herself at a spot where she is thinking about moving from the spot that she called home since the 1970s.

"We are America, we make up America, you know all the people that get up and do the best they can," said Mutula.