By Will Johnson
Messenger Reporter

GRAPELAND – Though unrelated to the recent closure Timberlands Healthcare in Crockett, the Sam Houston State University (SHSU) School of Nursing, in conjunction with the Center for Rural Studies, held a focus group meeting in Grapeland on Thursday, July 20 at the Grapeland Senior Citizens Center.

In a previous interview with The Messenger, Dr. Shannon M. Lane with the SHSU School of Nursing discussed the purpose of the focus group.

“This is something that has been in the works for about two years. It’s kind of serendipitous that it happened now,” she said. “We are in the process of applying for a federal grant to get a mobile medical clinic. We are trying to determine how we can access this population or any kinds of activities that may be served by a mobile unit.”

The mobile medical clinic, if approved, would provide different types of free cancer screenings for a five-county area consisting of: Houston, Grimes, Trinity, San Jacinto and Walker counties.

“We are applying for the grant through the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas,” Lane said.

As the July 21 meeting began, Lane addressed the attendees about the purpose of the meeting.

“As we all know the healthcare crisis in our country is broad, complex and somewhat difficult to understand. What we at SHSU are trying to do is come into the counties get ideas from the citizenry about what is needed, what healthcare links are missing and how we can best match up the SHSU School of Nursing with this five county area,” she said.

Lane stressed Houston County had been targeted for the focus group well before the hospital closure and added all responses would be confidential.

Dr. Ann Stiles, with the SHSU School of Nursing, was next to speak.

“Feel free to treat this as a discussion and respond to others whether you agree or disagree. Your opinions and whatever you say is fine with us. There are no right or wrong answers. We are just asking for your opinions with your own personal experiences (with healthcare),” Stiles said.

Once Stiles concluded, the participants were divided into small groups and given a list of five questions to answer.

The questions were:

  1. What would you say are the biggest healthcare problems faced by your community?
  2. From which sources do you usually receive health care?
  3. If you were given the chance to select one health care outlet that is not already present in your community, what would it be?
  4. Do you have to leave your community to receive needed health care? Where do you have to go and approximately how many miles is this? How do you get there?
  5. Do you feel you have been adequately educated on where to receive health care?

Following the small group discussion, the participants came back together and answered several more questions posed by the SHSU facilitators.

While other answers were given, one answer was verbalized time after time and applicable to several questions.

“We need a hospital.”

The results of the focus group will be used to help SHSU’s School of Nursing and the Center for Rural Studies assess healthcare needs in the local area as well as potentially develop programs to meet those needs.

Will Johnson may be contacted via e-mail at wjohnson@messenger-news.com.