Starr County physicians offering COVID-19 prescriptions at no cost

Notes to medical personnel are hung in an area as they prepare to enter a COVID-19 unit at Starr County Memorial Hospital, Monday in Rio Grande City. (Eric Gay | The Associated Press)

In the absence of Starr County’s drive-thru COVID-19 testing site, which was shut down on Oct. 23, local doctors have stepped up to offer consultations and prescriptions for tests at no cost to patients.

The participation of these physicians was announced during a news conference last week hosted by Starr County Health Authority Dr. Antonio Falcon, during which Dr. Javier D. Margo Jr., who works in the emergency department of Starr County Memorial Hospital, said the hospital will also be offering tests.

Testing at the hospital, Margo said, will be available from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.  Monday through Friday.

In order to get a test at the hospital, however, individuals will need a prescription from a doctor beforehand.

“You do need a physician’s order,” Margo said. “We will not be giving a physician’s order; don’t come to the ER expecting a physician order, you need to have that from your physician.”

For people who don’t have a primary care physician or don’t have insurance, a few doctors in the area are offering to provide prescriptions at no charge, announced Cynthia Fuentes, who works in public relations for the county.

“For patients with no insurance and no primary physician, they may call the following physicians who have volunteered to help out by writing out prescriptions through telemedicine at no cost to the patient,” Fuentes said.

Those physicians include Dr. Raymond Mussett, a family practice physician based in Roma, and Dr. Jose Vazquez, an internal medicine doctor based in Rio Grande City. Family Health Center in Rio Grande City will also be offering those services.

“Once you have acquired a prescription, the patient may choose to go to Starr County Memorial Hospital to take their COVID-19 test at no cost to the patient,” Fuentes said. “The physician who writes the prescription will receive the test result and call the patient for results.”

In making the decision to close the county-run facility, Starr County Judge Eloy Vera explained the low demand for tests couldn’t justify the resources the county put towards operating it, which included peace officers, traffic control and equipment.

Aside from going to a local doctor, another testing option is through the sites run by the Texas National Guard, which are typically open two days out of the week in the county. Tests there are free and do not require a prescription.

That testing site is typically set up at the Roma Community Center at 502 Sixth St. in Roma. It’s usually open from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. or until they run out of tests.