UTMB emergency room to reopen

July 29, 2009 7:04:32 AM PDT
The emergency room at the Hurricane Ike-devastated University of Texas Medical Branch is scheduled to reopen Saturday. "It's been a long time coming," said Mike Hill, associate chief operating officer.

Ike hit Galveston on Sept. 13, swamping parts of the island and forcing thousands of residents to flee.

Hill says the reopening will take some of the burden off Houston hospitals that have been accepting UTMB patients since the emergency room was closed.

"Those individuals who truly have an emergency, we'll be there for them," he said. "Those ambulances and those emergencies can now come back to the island."

The Galveston County Daily News reported Wednesday that doctors and nurses were training at UTMB planned two trial runs before it reopens the emergency room.

The emergency room's floor is at one of the highest physical elevations, more than 30 feet above sea level and beyond Ike's storm surge. But damage at John Sealy Hospital made a swift return of the emergency room impossible.

The UTMB complex suffered more than $1 billion in damages from Ike and insurance covered only about $100 million.

The hospital reopened earlier this year with about 370 beds, compared to 550 beds prior to Ike.

Gov. Rick Perry on June 19 signed into law bills to provide financial help to areas still struggling to recover from 2008 hurricanes.

The funding includes $150 million for the University of Texas Medical Branch.

Perry also signed a bill that would allow $150 million in bonds to help UTMB build a new 200-bed hospital. That money will be matched by a $200 million contribution from the Sealy Smith Foundation.

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