Layoffs at UTMB still unknown

October 29, 2008 4:34:30 AM PDT
The president of the University of Texas Medical Branch told employees he is unsure whether they will have jobs because a lot of people have a say in what happens to the Hurricane-Ike damaged academic medical center. ROAD TO RECOVERY: How you can help | Person locator | Important phone numbers | Assistance from FEMA | Filing a claim

Ike caused nearly $710 million in losses to UTMB and officials said about $100 million of the damage is covered by insurance.

UTMB planned to lay off one-third of its 12,000-employee work force but reversed course earlier this month. Lawmakers said they pressured the University of Texas Board of Regents to provide enough money to save the 4,000 jobs at the state's oldest medical school.

Medical branch officials are waiting on the state to decide how much of the damage it will pay to repair and how much money it will continue to send to Galveston for ongoing operations, The Galveston County Daily News reported in its online edition Tuesday.

Speaking to about 600 employees Tuesday in a meeting open only to university staff members and closed to members of the media, UTMB president David L. Callender explained why he did not have any answers about possible layoffs.

Callender told employees he hoped the medical branch would come back as big as it was before the storm, although he has said the hospital likely would be scaled back to about 200 beds when it reopens next month.

Previously, Callendar said the medical center continues to lose money because the hospital, its main source of revenue, is barely operating since Hurricane Ike.

Administrators have organized several job fairs on campus to help employees find a new place to work if they want to, said Marsha Canright, a medical branch spokeswoman. Callender said administrators wanted to err on behalf of medical branch employees, giving them the widest options available for their future, Canright said.

UTMB will continue to pay salaries to employees who are not working until Nov. 14. After that, if the Legislature does not come up with another emergency funding plan, many medical branch employees are likely to be out of their jobs.

Valerie Peterson, who works in the information services department, said she was still worried about her job, even though Callender's message was positive.

Callender encouraged medical branch employees to continue to appeal to their legislators for help, Peterson said. He told them whatever they were doing was working, Peterson said.

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