October 27, 2021 307 PM
PRESIDIO — Last Friday, there was something unusual in the waiting room at the Presidio County Medical Clinic: a party. Hector and Sonia Armendariz of the Bean Café catered a COVID-conscious bash following a ribbon-cutting ceremony where staff of the PCMC welcomed their new colleague, pharmacist Andrea Perez.
For many Presidio residents, Perez is not a new face. She grew up in Ojinaga and is a graduate of Presidio High School. “For me, coming back to Presidio is coming back home,” she said.
“She’s a ray of light just out of school,” said Presidio County Medical Clinic Chief Operations Officer Cynthia Esquivel.
Esquivel explained that the building currently housing the clinic at 1501 Erma Ave was designed to have a pharmacy, but staffing and stocking that pharmacy has been a challenge over the years. Before Perez’s arrival, medications would come from the pharmacies in Alpine twice a week on the TRAX bus.
Prescriptions could take 3 to 5 days to fill or longer, depending on the weather. Many Presidio residents found prescriptions they depended on snagged up in snowstorms and road construction. If an emergency happened to fall on a Friday, that patient might not get relief until the following Tuesday.
PCMC, a clinic run by the regional provider Preventative Care Health Services, tried renting the space to a for-profit company, but because the clinic strives to offer low-cost services — most notably, special pricing on prescriptions through the 340B program serving low-income rural communities — they didn’t stick around for long. Presidio residents were back to waiting on their twice-weekly shipments.
Even when the shipments came on time, a bigger problem remained: there was no one available to answer questions about how to take them. According to Perez, many patients were getting their medications, but they weren’t taking them correctly because they weren’t getting them from a pharmacist. They’d neglect refills or forget to schedule follow-up appointments to check on their progress.
Perez hopes all that will change under her watch.
“I’m available all the time,” she said. “At least when we’re open five days a week, I’m there. You don’t have to make an appointment to talk to me or ask me any questions.”
Perez is excited about the possibility of an infusion of healthcare funding in Presidio. The Big Bend Sentinel recently reported on the prospect of $8.2 million in grant money that would expand healthcare offerings at PCMC, including extended hours, access to specialists via telemedicine and enhanced emergency services.
“If more money becomes available to improve access to healthcare here in Presidio, I hope we can use it to bring healthcare providers here. We do have infrastructure, we do have buildings, but we don’t have the workforce,” she said. “It doesn’t matter if we have all these beautiful buildings if we don’t have the right providers.”
Perez recognizes that attracting new healthcare professionals to rural Presidio poses challenges, but for her, it’s personal. “I was gone for 10 years when I went to college and pharmacy school, so after all those years, coming back home feels good. I feel like I belong here, and I’m really happy to be back.”