‘People need help’: Efforts underway to bring health care to Houston’s east side

HOUSTON – There are efforts underway to help give residents on Houston’s east side more accessible health care.

“The Medical Center, a world-renowned institution, means nothing to the residents of east Harris County,” said Precinct 2 Commissioner Adrian Garcia.

Every freeway in Houston has a hospital, except I-10 East Freeway.

“They’ve opened one in Katy, they have some in The Woodlands, I know they’ve opened one in Humble, why not the east side?” said Ida Rocha. “We have insurance, people need help, we cannot be rushing to the Medical Center all the time.”

Rocha’s dad passed away in April.

“It was a big hit for me because I was the one next to him all the time,” said Rocha.

He suffered from heart issues and diabetes, which meant frequent visits to the Medical Center from their home in Galena Park.

“The drive to the Medical Center with no traffic is 20 minutes. With traffic, it’s up to an hour, hour and a half,” said Rocha.

For decades, East Houston Regional Hospital sat on I-10 near Uvalde.

The hospital, a block away from Greens Bayou, flooded multiple times, including during Hurricane Harvey.

It was closed and demolished.

“We knew that flood after flood, we just really couldn’t continue to put patients’ lives at risk at that site,” said HCA CEO Jeanna Bamburg.

There were no plans for another hospital, but HCA Houston soon opened HCA Houston ER 24/7 North Channel along East Beltway 8.

“We started with a nine-bed emergency room. Not sure how the community would respond to a free-standing emergency room without an attached hospital,” said Bamburg.

But the response so great, it has expanded to 22 beds.

“We want to of course take care of people where they are. Emergencies happen, things happen. You want to be able to get to care quickly,” said Bamburg.

Without a hospital in east Harris County, Precinct 2 Commissioner Adrian Garcia is on a mission.

“How do we serve the uninsured?” asked Garcia. “I get that we don’t want to build beds just so people can come and fill them, but how do we make sure that preventative medicine is at the forefront?”

Precinct 2 has the highest number of uninsured people in the county.

Garcia has teamed with Baylor College of Medicine to run two mobile health clinics called Smart Pods which have been used for COVID-19 testing and vaccinations.

“(I’m) ensuring that everybody regardless of their walk of life, regardless of their language, regardless of their socio-economic can have access to life-changing and lifesaving healthcare services and resources,” said Garcia.

Garcia is working to reach more people who need it most and has plans to open a health clinic.

“This mega clinic would be something in between your standard health clinic and something in between a hospital,” he said. “You’re not forgotten and you’re not gonna be left behind.”

HCA recently sold the old hospital site to Harris County for flood detention.

Bamburg said they could possibly build a hospital in the area in the future.

KPRC 2 reached out to other hospital systems, including Memorial Hermann and Methodist, and they don’t have plans to open a hospital in the area.

About the Author:

Reporter, family-oriented, sports fanatic, proud Houstonian.