The Huntsville Item, Huntsville, TX

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November 14, 2009

HMH shuts down unit housing TDCJ offenders

An agreement Huntsville Memorial Hospital officials hoped would last indefinitely ended in less than a year.

The reopening of UTMB’s Hospital Galveston in recent months has forced HMH to close its Forensic or Lockdown Unit, which was created to provide nine beds for Texas Department of Criminal Justice offenders on the west end of the third floor.

HMH spent $40,000 to install the unit’s security system, allowing for fewer guards to be stationed in the unit.

TDCJ regulations call for two guards to accompany each offender.

The unit opened Dec. 11 and was utilized by TDCJ’s Walker County units for seven or eight months, according to Bob Gray, HMH’s chief financial officer.

The need to take TDCJ offenders to HMH occurred when Hospital Galveston was damaged by Hurricane Ike in early September 2008.

HMH personnel worked with TDCJ and UTMB and Correctional Managed Care to develop the unit and get it operational to take care of offenders and their medical needs.

When Hospital Galveston reopened a few months ago, Correctional Managed Care started having TDCJ transport offenders from Walker County and area prison units to the Galveston site, Gray said.

Gray told the Walker County Hospital District’s board of managers during its recent meeting that the Forensic Unit had closed because it housed one to two patients at a time and none for three to four days.

Gray told the board of managers about the closure when board member Susan Vanderheydt asked Gray about the status of the unit.

Gray said TDCJ offenders brought to HMH for care now are placed in the nine-bed unit.

“We had a nine-patient forensic bed unit and on any given day seven to eight patients,” Gray said. “Occasionally, we would hit nine patients a day and a few times we had some patients that required ICU care so we had at one time all of the Forensic Unit full and two patients in ICU.”

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