Clinic facilities

Gateway Announces Mobile Clinic and West Side Clinic Plans

Gateway Health Center CEO Elmo Lopez announced Friday the establishment of a mobile clinic to serve the west Laredo community at St. Frances Cabrini Church. The clinic will provide accessible health care services to nearby residents, as well as the Mines Road area.

Additionally, Rep. Henry Cuellar and District VIII Councilmember Alyssa Cigarroa joined Lopez in announcing that funds have been secured to build a Gateway Health Clinic on the West End to help the approximately 30,000 Laredo residents in the area permanently.

According to Cuellar, $2 million has already been approved for the West Side Clinic project, but until that is complete, the Gateway Community Health Center mobile clinic is expected to begin operations in April. The large bus housing the clinic was the backdrop for the press conference about the project and the soon-to-be-built west side clinic.

The West End clinic had been under construction for several years and was only a dream until December 2019, before the pandemic hit. With Cigarroa’s insistence on a clinic in District VIII and Cuellar’s funding, the dream is about to come true. According to the announcement, the money is being set aside for construction, Cuellar said, because Gateway must now find suitable land to build the clinic.

Until then, a mobile clinic should help.

“On behalf of Gateway Community Health Center, we are grateful to Congressman Cuellar for his continued support for quality health care. With the funds we received, we will use this mobile medical unit to bring health care to Webb, Zapata, and Jim Hogg counties for people who don’t have reliable transportation,” Lopez said. “Our goal is to provide access to quality healthcare, and Congressman Cuellar has helped us do just that.”

The mobile clinic also received federal funding in the amount of $167,000 and is housed in a large bus that provides adequate and comfortable space for both a small number of patients and Gateway staff. Lopez said with permission from the Diocese of Laredo, they plan to begin mobile operations at both St. Jude Church and St. Frances Cabrini Church.

Cuellar added that once operational, residents will be able to visit the mobile clinic after mass. Additionally, Cuellar and Lopez encouraged community agencies such as multiple law enforcement agencies to invite the Mobile Health Services Clinic to their events throughout the year.

While the interior was still being prepared for the April debut, its offices, equipment and waiting area felt spacious without feeling too cramped. Surrounding residents can expect to find the usual treatment as they would at a physically established clinic, such as pediatrics, geriatrics, women’s visits, vaccinations, COVID testing and more.

With two exam offices, Gateway Health Center director of nursing Fred Santos said residents can feel comfortable knowing a nearby clinic doesn’t sacrifice services for mobility. Staffing was also said to be of no concern as nurses and doctors are available, and the family medicine residency program will see rotations within the mobile clinic.

“Where the need is, we will go there,” Santos said.

This is the case for future plans, as Lopez said the mobile clinic is establishing itself as a convenient and accessible clinic in both the West End and the Mines Road area a few days a week per site. As it registers new patients, the clinics that are expected to be built in each area will soon have an established patient base thanks to the mobile clinic, Lopez said.

“We will see patients all day, Monday through Friday, and probably Saturday and Sunday if they allow us access to the premises,” Lopez said.

It is expected that the process will translate into the Mines Road area. As the mobile clinic invites patients to its sites, its base grows. With time, planning and support from the district council member and another of Cuellar’s $2 million stipends, a new clinic can be established. Lopez said beyond a Mines Road clinic, Las Colonias and surrounding counties will soon benefit from the mobile clinic and potentially a new permanent clinic.

Cigarroa said the west side clinic is the culmination of the work of herself and Cuellar and Lopez, to help the area’s 30,000 Laredoans – many of whom are elderly and without transport. She said she was grateful for the announcement and for Gateway to become part of the fabric of the West End.

“For the past 20 years, Congressman Cuellar has served as fundraiser for the Gateway Community Health Center, which began as a small city health department clinic, and in 1989 became a center for federal health qualified,” she said. “And thanks to Congressman Cuellar’s concern for health in Laredo, Zapata and Hebbronville, what started as a small clinic now serves more than 30,000 patients in those three communities.”

Going forward, Cuellar said he hopes to publicize the Gateway Clinic located in Laredo College South and plans to work more with Wawi Tijerina to establish accessible clinics in Rio Bravo and El Cenizo. As residents still have to travel to Laredo to visit a clinic, this would be another step forward in the fight against health care deserts.