TOMAGWA Healthcare Ministries officials announced March 18 the nonprofit organization would suspend most on-site health care services and begin caring for its patients via telehealth care through March 30. The nonprofit organization serves 3,200 uninsured and low-income patients within a 600-square-mile area of Tomball, Magnolia and Waller and has offices in Tomball and Magnolia.

The announcement comes as local entities and health care providers seek to slow the spread of COVID-19, the infectious disease caused by the novel coronavirus.

"As a result of COVID-19, TOMAGWA is facing a sudden and unexpected shock as it serves our most vulnerable populations including the homeless, the working poor and the unemployed," CEO Timika Simmons said in the release. "TOMAGWA is struggling to keep the community safe while protecting its staff and facilities; however our calling will not allow us to quit."

Simmons said substantial decreases in donations, volunteers and patient contributions as well as a scarcity of supplies, price gouging, and an increase in state and federal regulations has severely drained the organization's resources.

The move to telehealth care means patients can receive remote health consultations, and mobilized teams will provide touchless medication delivery services for patients needing prescription medicines. Additionally, dental on-site services will be provided for emergencies only.

TOMAGWA medical professionals will make house calls for chronically ill patients who do not exhibit symptoms of the coronavirus or meet the virus' risk criteria, according to the release.

"Taking the medical mission approach allows us to bring care right to the patients, which minimizes risks and takes into consideration their economic limitation and social disparities, just like we do on true mission fields," Simmons said in the release.

As many of TOMAGWA's patients have illnesses falling in line with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's list of those most at risk for contracting the coronavirus, TOMAGWA officials said the move to telehealth services will slow the spread of the virus.

"If we could not come up with a creative way to provide care for our patients considering our current limitations, the mortality rate of COVID-19 cases would increase significantly in the indigent population," she said in the release. "Also the already crowded [emergency rooms] of the two hospitals in our 600-square-mile service area would be even more overwhelmed with visits from non-COVID-19 related care, which would otherwise be addressed during a regular office visit," Medical Director Linda Flower said.

Patient access: 409-234-4869

Medical assistance: 409-234-1403

Dental assistance: 936-213-0886