Friday, January 02, 2009

What happens with prison healthcare if UTMB fails to rebuild?

According to an article titled "Emergency!" by Mimi Swartz at Texas Monthly, the University of Texas System may decide not to rebuild the UT Medical Branch at Galveston after Hurricane Ike, facilities which include the hospital responsible for most of the state prison system and "telemedicine" infrastructure that serves 80% of Texas prisoners.

Cheering state Sen. Steve Ogden's efforts to insist UTMB be rebuilt, Swartz predicts that:
unless Ogden prevails, UTMB will face inevitable death. Ogden is keenly aware that as an Aggie challenging the most powerful teasips, he’s vulnerable to criticism that he has it in for A&M’s longtime rival. Even so, he’s persisted. He understands that the proposed reduction in the number of hospital beds means a reduction in the number of patients needed to support a viable medical school; in order to become the best doctors, students need patients with a variety of illnesses and injuries. Victims of local emergencies, from car accidents to refinery explosions, would no longer have a Level I trauma center at their disposal; they’d have to depend on an ambulance or a helicopter to get them to Houston. Certainly Galveston’s residents would suffer financially and medically with a reduced UTMB, but so too would all the overcrowded public hospitals in Texas that would then have to take in more uninsured patients, or simply turn them away without treatment. “The longer the hospital stays out of commission the more people forget,” one longtime Island resident told me.

Maybe that’s just what the regents are hoping for.
To be fair, Swartz's article and Sen. Ogden understate the enormous problems with investing so much in infrastructure on a hurricane-prone barrier island. It's possible that's just an untenable idea that must be fundamentally reconsidered. But if UTMB isn't going to rebuild its medical infrastructure in Galveston, that leaves as an open question what happens to prison health care UTMB was previously providing through that facility.


Anonymous said...

If we quit spending millions on health care for those in prison, perhaps they will start to follow the laws and stay out of prison. Worth a try?

Gritsforbreakfast said...

California already tried that. Wanna go their route?

Anonymous said...

anon 9.51 ~ it simply doesnt work that way. TDCJ would have to face many more law suits for negligence and it would cost Texans a lot more in the long run.

There is an argument to allow inmates who did have free-world medical insurance before they were incarcerated, to continue to use it if their families can keep paying the premiums. That would go a small way to help cover the costs and many families would be willing to do that (especially those whose loved ones have sentences of less than 5 years).

Anonymous said...

I can only speak for TYC and how the kids and staff are treated with the current system. If UTMB were to cease being the primary care giver the treatment to the kids would improve exponentially and the stress of staff having to transport them back and forth would be a blessing. Having to leave a facility at 4:00 or 4:30 in the morning and not returning till 10:00 or 11:00 PM is a tremendous hard ship for both the kids and staff.

Of course Mr. Witmire could care less about stress on staff or hardship for the TYC kids as long as he and the rest of his ilk are in the money chain and receiving benefits from UTMB.

Anonymous said...

While I can understand Grits' comment concerning rebuilding on a barrier island, UTMB management utterly ignored the lessons of Alicia when that hurricane wreaked its havoc in Houston. Other UT insitutions in the area moved their vital equipment and functions up and away from first floors and basements. Not so at UTMB.

Also, UTMB recently built the Galveston National Lab facility on the island, and all that happened to it was a little damp carpet near the door. The methodology and technology exists to rebuild the right way.

UTMB's (and UT's) quest to build off island is about money. Galveston's economy has been steadily polarizing, and the middle class has been shrinking between growing segments of the very poor and the very rich. On the whole, Galveston's citizens are poorer than the folks closer to Houston. Despite UTMB's annual cries of poverty, it has not been in the red for years and years, as an examination of their annual financial report reveals. UTMB can be rebuilt, and UTMB will continue to prosper there if it is.

UTMB's and UT's corporate management, people like UT Interim Chancellor Kenneth Shine, imported from California and with no regional loyalty or ties, however, wants to chase the profits, not the public interest. (Only public scrutiny stopped UTMB's administrators from giving themselves $3 million in bonuses after Ike hit and after they laid off 3,000 employees.) They want to leave Galveston's citizens high and dry after Ike's flooding.

Anonymous said...

Isn't substandard / no healthcare part of the delegated and often privatized "you are being punished" mentality ?

Gritsforbreakfast said...

George, I criticized the placement of that national lab when they put it in Galeston precisely because of the barrier island issue. So I've at least been consistent on this topic, fwiw. See more on that lab here.

In fact, if the storm had hit a little more directly on the island and reached the surge levels predicted before evacuation, that lab and the other relatively undamaged parts of UTMB would be a lot more seriously affected.

Even when nothing happens, they have to destroy all their cultures every time they evacuate because it's all dangerous BSL3 and 4-type bugs. So even if the weather doesn't destroy the lab, the frequent interruptions make it an ill-placed site for that purpose.

Anonymous said...

31"When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his throne in heavenly glory. 32All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.
34"Then the King will say to those on his right, 'Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 35For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.'

37"Then the righteous will answer him, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?'

40"The King will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.'

41"Then he will say to those on his left, 'Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. 42For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, 43I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.'

44"They also will answer, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?'

45"He will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.'

46"Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life."

The attitude of some people towards "the least of these" in a state where most people consider themselves to be Christians amazes me. We are talking about basic human rights. Texas incarcerates people at 10 times the rate of communist China. If we are going to put people in prison for every little thing we can we are obligated to provide decent health care to them. Those of you that think you are so much better than those in prison and look down your noses at them should be careful. Texas has a significant number of innocent people in prison. If you were to find yourself in the wrong place at the wrong time you could become one of them. Don't count on a fair trial. If you found yourself wrongly imprisoned wouldn't you want decent health care?

Many of the people we have in prison are mentally ill. The last number I saw was that Texas ranks 47th in spending on mental health care among the states. Should people be punished for being mentaly ill? The level of care for mentally ill inmates in the Texas prison system is appalling. Every citizen of this state that considers themself to be a Christian should be ashamed of our entire criminal justice system.

Anonymous said...

As a Galvestonian, I concur with the poster who said that if UTMB in Galveston ceased to be the primary caregiver the treatment to kids (and others, I will add) would improve exponentially.

As someone involved in jail outreach/ministry in Galveston I've been horrified by what's passed for medical care of inmates provided by UTMB.

People with medical training who choose to use this ability in a sadistic manner are, I hope, few and far between. However, there is a high concentration of this type of caregiver (all levels) in the UTMB prison care system. Inmates needing medical help can expect to suffer lots of verbal abuse and neglect. Pain meds are often withheld, as is lifesaving treatment.

There is a lot of corruption built into the UTMB prison care system - the cats have been getting fat for a long time.

It is also pretty archaic to have to bus prisoners from all over the state to UTMB, to say the least.

Medical care which is organized solely around a prison population will inevitably attract a more sadistic subgroup of medical professionals. The inmates would be much better served if they were treated by the same medical professionals as civilians.

Also, the financial risks associated with UTMB rebuilding on the island are far to great.

Anonymous said...

Re Mr. Reamy's comments about UTMB failing to move vital equipment and departments away from first floors and basements:

Tragically true! I keep thinking of the first floor radiology department, those multimillion MRI machines - the medical records in the basement, et cetera.

In many aspects, Texas is much more efficient and direct than other states in the USA. In my experience, the public here has a highly level of integrity when compared to other states. How is it that the most incompetent, stupid and inefficient processes in the USA all seem to end up connected to the Texas Justice System. How is it that the most morally corrupt and sadistic government employees in the USA work for the 'great' state of Texas?

Sam Houston weeps.

Anonymous said...

UTMB sucks. It does not provide healthcare for inmates. My brother got sick in prison and they did nothing. We fought them and fought them. Even went to our state representative. UTMB does not care. There is no dental care, no follow up care, nothing in the prison system. I don't know what they are doing with any monies from our state.

When anonymous said "quit spending millions on healh care for those in prison, perhaps they will start to follow the law." All I have to say is if they ever had a child in the prison system, they would recant that statement. You are just an ass. Kathy

Anonymous said...

844: You're like the irresponsible family that has six kids on welfare and wants the state to take care of all your needs. Same for those in prison, mostly, irresponsible. Folks who are too lazy to work, so they rob some one and wind up behind bars. Then the state takes care of them....too much irresponsibility in families in Texas.

Anonymous said...


Saying that you may have a different perspective, should you have an incarcerated child, has nothing to do with irresponsibility or Texas families.

Your like the Governor (now soon to be former president) who mocked and belittled a woman he condemned to death and out of the order side of his concealed mouth touted compassionate conservatism.

I guess you would rather imprison people than try to provide more humane and logical governmental services.

The Texas "hang em high" mentality has clearly failed and your beliefs/values are antiquated and very likely unconstitutional. Yes the same constitution your Texas forefathers pledged their allegiance to with their tail between their legs after failed nationhood and unsuccessful secession.