MATHIS – For years Mathis has struggled to keep a medical facility in the city. Residents were forced to drive to Calallen or all the way to Corpus Christi to get medical help which could end up being close to a two-hour trip. For those without vehicles, it could take even longer waiting for public transportation.

On Tuesday, Mathis celebrated a major achievement as it held its grand opening for the brand new Mathis Health Clinic, located at 1205 E. San Patricio Ave. With the help of a local doctor, and more than a little help from a local church, the idea of bringing health care to Mathis became a reality.

“On behalf of the city of Mathis, we are so proud of the fact that we are finally are to supply some medical care for our constituents,” Mathis Mayor Ciri Villarreal said. “I know that this is a long time coming and by the faith of the Lord that Faith Lutheran Church actually donated the building and gave us the ability to say, ‘You know what? Now we have a building to do something with.’”

Grace Lutheran Church donated the building to the Mathis Economic Development Corporation earlier this year so they could turn it into a medical facility.

“It took us a long time trying to figure out what to do because our membership was declining,” Grace Lutheran Church Council President Diane Wilder said. “We were getting older, and we were losing members. 

“I went and talked to Doug and told him we had a facility. When he made the suggestion that we maybe look at trying to bring in a medical facility, the congregation thought that was great idea.

“So we started working with Doug and the EDC and the whole congregation got behind us and this is what is here now. So hopefully the legacy of Grace Lutheran will continue here.”

Now with a facility donated, the real work had to be done – not just turning the church into a medical facility, but finding a doctor to run it.

Mathis looked no further than Sinton where they found Dr. Rene Acuña. 

Acuña has been in practice for more than 32 years in Sinton, the same place he graduated from before heading out to medical school.

“I have a little passion for the rural area,” Dr. Acuña said. “And It’s really sad to see that health care is disappearing in the rural areas. We need to try to come up with some type of remedy where we can lure young physicians to rural areas, because people in the rural areas are really appreciative of healthcare, and It’s really a joy taking care of them.”

Dr. Acuña said he remembered back in the day Sinton had six doctors, Taft had four and Mathis and Odem had one each.

“Now we only have two full-time doctors in Sinton,” he continued. “And that’s not going to work.

“We need to get the word out. You need to talk to people, talk to politicians, and tell them we need something to help us get these young docs to the rural area.

“Hopefully this will be a start. And hopefully we get this clinic going so that maybe we can lure somebody to come over here full time. 

“And that’s what we’re hoping to do.”

San Patricio County Judge David Krebs said, “Congratulations to the city of Mathis and congratulations to everyone that lives here for their health care now.

“And again, thank you to the church without God thinking about this community, this wouldn’t have happened.”