Thousands of jobs on the line at UTMB Galveston

April 17, 2009 11:01:45 AM PDT
Thousands of jobs on the line at UTMB in Galveston and now for the first time, Governor Rick Perry is talking about the future of the hospital. UTMB suffered millions of dollars in damage during Hurricane Ike.

The governor says his priority is the people who work at UTMB, many of whom also had great personal losses. He says repair of the buildings is secondary.

"Sounds like it's going to be a long time if ever before things are back to the way it was," said UTMB employee Jennie Bell.

For a month now, UTMB employees have worried about their jobs since taking six feet of water in places. The hospital just reopened its labor and delivery department this week. That and the emergency room are it. Thousands employed at the hospital, medical school and clinics want to know, what will happen to them.

"It's a bit premature to lay out concrete plans," Governor Rick Perry said.

Yesterday Governor Perry met with UTMB's president, some UT regents and state legislators.

"I full well expect this state working without counterparts in Washington," Governor Perry said. "Be able to lay out in the not too distant future some short and long term plans for this institution."

Until then, he says the state will help employees.

"Either finding them employment [or] helping them find new employment and we're talking about what is the right period of time to be able to help those UTMB employees that are not going to be able to go back to work anytime soon," Governor Perry said.

Because they don't know how much of the hospital will be reopened, Perry advises employees who are being recruited by other institutions:

"You need to make a decision that's best for you and your family," Governor Perry said. "Rather than being held in limbo if you have the opportunity to relocate and take a position somewhere else, you should certainly investigate that and move in that direction again if it's in the best interest of those impacted."

The losses at UTMB total some $700 million. UTMB president Dr. David Callender has said the medical school will survive. In fact, the med students are expected back on campus next week.

He says the hospital will survive too, although it will be much smaller. How much smaller will determine how many will be laid off. And those are questions that still have not been answered.

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Christi Myers is ABC13's Healthcheck reporter

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