UTMB ER ready to reopen for patients

July 31, 2009 4:49:50 PM PDT
Doctors and nurses at University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston are ready for patients. The emergency room is reopening on Saturday. It's the first time the ER will accept patients since Hurricane Ike. The re-opening will also take some of the pressure off trauma centers in Houston.

The helicopters will again be flying, and the ambulances will be rolling in when UTMB reopens Saturday. The reopening of its Level 1 trauma center is symbolic -- it proves the big Galveston hospital has recovered from Hurricane Ike's destruction.

"Places like Hermann and Ben Taub and Parkland are all Level 1 trauma centers just like us," Dr. Bill Mileski, UTMB Chief of Trauma Services, said.

UTMB will be back in the Level 1 trauma business beginning Saturday morning at 8am.

"We will be able to take care of everything a Level 1 trauma center can take care of," Dr. Mileski said, "but we won't be able to call ourselves a Level 1 trauma center until we're officially re-verified by the State of Texas."

UTMB's emergency room has been shut down for almost a year since the day Hurricane Ike hit.

The hospital has been reeling from $700 million in damages and from the emotional layoffs of more than 2,000 people. Now, they're recruiting again, and will be hiring for months.

"We are so excited to get started up again," Wanda Taylor, RN Trauma Centerr Interim Nurse Manager, said. "It's so nice to be in the ER again."

Mileski agrees.

"For the hospital to reopen to full capacity and provide all of the services we did before the storm within 11 months of the most devastating storm the university's ever seen is a big deal," he said.

The emergency room has been conducting dry runs and simulated emergencies .

"We're doing these practice drills to find out what computer is not communicating with what printer, and what CAT scanner is not getting orders, and to start working with people again and get over the initial butterflies, as it were," Dr. Mileski said.

The trauma center has been improved and its computers have been upgraded. When an emergency room that has been shut down is reopened, hospital staff are faced with an amazing to-do list. Everything has to be cleaned and sterilized.

"The air ducts in building, the air control handling, it's probably as close to new as it was when it opened in 1989," Mileski said.

Taylor concurred.

"We have brand new nurses' stations," she said. "It's all wide open, it's all nice and clean and sparkly and we're ready to go."

And UTMB is on a roll. It won a state award for quality on Friday. The Texas Healthcare Quality Improvement Award is given to Texas hospitals for their expertise in handling heart attacks, pneumonia, and surgery. It looks like other experts agree -- UTMB's trauma center is ready to go.

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