UTMB's future in doubt after Hurricane Ike
06:13 PM CDT on Monday, October 6, 2008
By Lee McGuire / 11 News
GALVESTON -- One of the state's premier medical research facilities is learning the hard way, at least on its first floor, that there is very little that can be saved after Hurricane Ike. Floodwaters swamped every building at UTMB with 750,000 square feet of infrastructure, including the pharmacy and blood bank, gone.
State and federal officials including U.S. Rep Sheila Jackson Lee, who toured UTMB on Monday, have pledged to see Galveston's largest employer rebuild.
However, once it is repaired, what will the 600-bed hospital, research hub and medical university look like?
Officials with UTMB and the UT System met all day behind closed doors on Monday to discuss everything from where to hold classes, to the future of research at the Galveston branch, to whether the hospital will play the same central role to southeast Texas healthcare that it did before the hurricane.
“It's important for people in the state of Texas to know that his hospital is committed to its reopening, but also committed to serving,” said Jackson Lee.
Employees of UTMB will find out the institution's fate during a town hall meeting at noon on Tuesday. One official briefed on the latest plan told 11 News that the message UT System Chancellor Kenneth Shine will present is “concerning,” and that the planning sessions on Monday were not joyful.
“I can't say what pre-Ike levels we are going to attain, because it's taken New Orleans so long (to recover),” said UTMB spokesman Dr. Ben Raimer. “I know because of good planning that's gone in that we will get back much quicker.”
After the 1900 Storm, UTMB's dean suggested that the Galveston branch should close forever. Instead, it grew stronger.
The question now is, can it happen again?