Easy access to health care is a problem for many people, though University of Texas Health Rio Grande Valley and H-E-B have teamed up to address the issue.

Two UT Health RGV’s V Express Care Clinics opened their doors inside Valley H-E-B Plus! stores on April 20, one of them at 2409 E. Expressway 83 in Mission and the other at 2155 Paredes Line Rd. in Brownsville. UT Health RGV is the clinical practice of the UTRGV School of Medicine in the Valley.

The clinics, open seven days a week, offer a variety of on-site services including treatment for minor illnesses and injuries, screenings and physicals, though the plan is to eventually expand into acute care and complex disease management.

Dr. John Krouse, dean of the school of medicine, said that although UT Health RGV has more than 30 clinics across the Valley it did not have a presence in Brownsville and Mission, though that changed on April 20. The response has been enthusiastic, he said.

“It’s been very good,” Krouse said. “We’ve had a number of people coming for care. We’ve had a number of people stop in and inquire about care, about what we’re doing and what kind of services we’re offering.”

A number of H-E-B employees have been using the clinics, including employees from other H-E-B stores, he said. Appointments are encouraged, though walk-ins are welcome. The clinics treat all ages and most insurance plans are welcome, according to UT Health RGV.

“It has been very successful,” Krouse said. “It’s grown very well and we expect it to continue to do so.”

With no patients in the clinic family nurse practitioner Sylvia Diaz looks for new information on COVID-19 on her computer Tuesday at the UTRGV V Express Care Clinic inside the H-E-B on Paredes Line Road.(Denise Cathey/The Brownsville Herald)

The clinics also dispense COVID-19 vaccine, as the focus is shifting to smaller vaccination sites from the earlier mass clinics designed to administer shots to hundreds or thousands of people, he said. The clinics will also provide vaccines for illnesses such as influenza, pneumonia and shingles, Krouse said. While talks with H-E-B about the clinics predated the pandemic, it underscores why sites of this sort will continue to be important, he said.

“We began these discussions with H-E-B at least 18 months ago,” Krouse said. “We had foreseen that bringing care to people at a time and place convenient for them made sense. H-E-B has always been very committed to health and wellness, and they were very receptive to working together.”

It’s all about making it easier for more people to access health care services by taking advantage of the H-E-B stores’ high customer volume, Krouse said.

“The goal here is not only to provide emergency or urgent care when needed, but it’s also to provide preventive care,” he said. “So vaccinations, things of that sort, are ways to help keep people healthy. If we can do that in a place that is convenient and at a good time for them, then it overall helps the public health of the community.”

Patient services representative Linda Sandoval works in the clinic’s front desk Tuesday at the UTRGV V Express Care Clinic inside the H-E-B on Paredes Line Road.(Denise Cathey/The Brownsville Herald)

Priscilla Grun, H-E-B border region director of human resources, said the clinics will enable UT Health RGV to “provide great quality health care to our communities in the Valley.”

Krouse said the V Express Care Clinic program could be expanded to other H-E-Bs.

“We’re certainly looking at that,” he said. “I would hate to predict what we’re doing, but it may very well be that there are other sites that we look to that we would partner in. We will continue to expand our range of medical services. H-E-B obviously will continue to expand as communities grow and develop. So I think we are certainly are going to be looking not only at these two sites, but at other potential opportunities as those arise in the future.”

For more information or to make an appointment visit uthealthrgv.org/locations/v-express-care. Call (956) 296-2925 in Brownsville or (956) 296-2935 in Mission.

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