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.”
Gray said installing the security system was the “right thing to do in terms of meeting their security needs and our staff wanted that same comfort that the unit itself was secured.”
Gray said there was the understanding that “when we did the agreement we would become a support unity for TDCJ since we were here in the community as the closest hospital. It seemed like a way we could finally work together.”
He said HMH soon found out that “this particular program is very unique in that each of those entities kind of have their own operating budget through the state.”
Gray said TDCJ is accountable and responsible for securing the offender population and transporting offenders to and from medical facilities, “but they don’t treat medical needs.”
Correctional Managed Care has its own budget and is accountable for rendering the health care of offenders.
“The group that is transporting and securing the patients obviously is motivated a little bit different to work with the hospital because that makes a lot of sense to them in terms of security and in terms of trasnportation costs,” Gray said.
“At the same time, they don’t control the dollars of health care,” he said. “Correctional Managed Care has that in their budget. When they are not taking care of those patients, those dollars that were coming out of their budget came directly to us as a hospital.
“It was in their best interest to move those patients back into a unit that they in essence received or kept the remuneration for.”
Gray said considerable costs are involved with transporting offenders, “but Correctional Managed Care in terms of medical care doesn’t take that into consideration for their budget.”
Gray said HMH figured the TDCJ revenue into its current fiscal year budget based on the long-term forecast for needs stated to the hospital “and expected we would continue that relationship long term. It hasn’t worked out that way.
“We would have liked for it to have lasted a little longer on our side. We didn’t budget nine patients a day. We budgeted I believe 6 1/2 patients a day. It impacts our revenue.”
“Once Hospital Galveston opened, they ended up moving that patient population,” Gray said. “We do care for an offender out of the TDCJ system, but that is one or two at a time and usually it’s because they come through the emergency center.
“We still have the unit there, but it’s no longer a locked unit. The beds are still there. We will use that as a general patient care population. Whenever we do have a TDCJ patient we need to care for, we still put that offender in that section of the building and try to isolate them as much as possible from the general public.”
Gray said HMH was not notified that it should close the Forensic Unit.
“We finally got to the point to say we cannot continue to sustain keeping the unith fully staffed if you’re not going to put any patients in here,” he said. “We just can’t do it. Ideally we would have liked to have a closer, a more cooperative working partnership.”
Gray said TDCJ and HMH both kept fully staffed crews and carried extra costs anticipating patients would be coming into the Forensic Unit.
“Once it became evident that the patients would not be coming in, we told them we were going to have to shut the unit down,” he said.
- Local News
Book signing highlights Texas Prison Museum’s 25th anniversary party Saturday
The Texas Prison Museum board wanted to do something special to celebrate the museum’s 25th anniversary, so director Jim Willett came up with a plan.
Huntsville Public Library helps people young and old have a super spring break
While some of their classmates may be vacationing on the beach, some Huntsville children stayed home this week to have fun.
The Huntsville Public Library is giving people young and old something to do during the break with a series of events.
To start, library volunteers helped children build containers to plant seeds and flowers Tuesday as a fun way to learn and recycle at the same time.
HUB Show teaches businesses how to do bigger business
Some local businesses are getting their shot at pitching their wares to major Huntsville and Walker County entities.
WALKER COUNTY FAIR: Cooks gearing up for BBQ and Chili Cook-off
Some of the best cooks in Walker County are already testing out their new recipes. Some of them have probably been doing it since this time last year.
The Walker County Fair & Rodeo is right around the corner, folks, and that means it’s almost time for the annual BBQ and Chili Cook-Off, which will take place on Friday, April 11, and Saturday, April 12.
To plant or not to plant: That’s a gardener’s quandary
To plant or not to plant, that seems to be the question.
Area gardeners are “reeling” from last week’s master blaster of arctic weather. The damage was high, but gardeners are a resilient lot. Hurricanes, tornadoes, hail storms and ice storms will not deter a spring gardener on their annual pilgrimage to their garden.
- County officials settle on property for CETRZ
SHSU to hit court for yearly Rockets Night
The Sam Houston State University sport management program will host “SHSU Night with the Houston Rockets” at Houston’s Toyota Center on April 12.
Book details rural black families’ ‘Other Great Migration’ to Houston
This story that until now went largely untold, is one of “The Other Great Migration” of rural blacks to Houston, Texas.
In her book, “The Other Great Migration,” award-winning historian and Sam Houston State associate professor Bernadette Pruitt chronicles this phenomenon.
TDCJ’s Windham School District gives inmates a shot at academic success
When inmates enter the Texas Department of Criminal Justice system, they often have a history of academic failure, low self-esteem and function at a sixth-grade learning level.
Windham School District offers offenders the opportunity to turn things around and develop skills to help them once they are released from prison.
Academy, Ross, PetCo coming soon to Huntsville
People in Huntsville soon may have a lot more choices when it comes to shopping.
- More Local News Headlines
- Book signing highlights Texas Prison Museum’s 25th anniversary party Saturday