By Michael Zhou and Mark Tschaepe
A cross-shaped, one-story, beige building stands on 6th Street in Hempstead, Texas. Some old chairs, technical equipment, and other miscellaneous objects are visible through its windows, which are spaced equally across its brick wall. A large sign explains to passersby that the building is home to some office spaces; however, upon closer inspection, the front door is impeded by a blunt sign marking the building’s abandonment: “Effective 11/25/2019, Health & Human Services is Moving.” Nothing hints at the building’s identity or history except a single, ridged metal plaque that reads “Waller County Hospital.”
Waller, an agrarian county on the northwestern outskirts of Houston, no longer has this hospital – a situation that is emblematic of a larger issue regarding rural healthcare across the country. The National Rural Health Association reports 107 rural hospitals have closed since 2010, and more than one-third of those remaining are at risk of closure. Waller County itself possesses fewer than five primary care physicians and no hospital. Yet despite its current state, the county has boasted multiple hospitals throughout its past. In the 1900s, two hospitals primarily served the Waller community. One hospital was located on the campus of Prairie View A&M University (PVAMU), and the other hospital was in Hempstead, the county’s largest city. Several issues plagued these hospitals, eventually causing both to close and transforming the county into a medical desert.
To find out more information about this and Waller County history check out the Waller County Texas Historical Commission website.