Saturday, November 15, 2008

Wall Street Trumps Charity Care Hospitals Devasted by Hurricanes

A perfect financial storm mobilized trillions of dollars to rescue American financial institutions. It struck the week of September 15th. Ironically the week before, Hurricane Ike devastated Southeast Texas, dealing a particularly nasty blow to Galveston.

UTMB's John Sealy Hospital, a 435 bed facility on Galveston Island, treated charity care cases from across the state of Texas. The storm flooded the first floor, requiring millions in repairs. With no patients, other than obstetrics, the hospital is bleeding $40 million a month.

The University's Regents cut staffing by 3,800 to stem the losses. The New York Times reported the university lacks the funds to make repairs, while state and federal assistance have not been appropriated. My questions include:

1. Did UTMB have flood and/or business interruption insurance? If so, funds should be coming to repair the facility and make up the cost of being temporarily out of business. If not, why did the University not insure against these obvious risks?

2. How many indigent UTMB patients came from outside Galveston proper? What happens to those people with a closed or dramatically reduced John Sealy?

3. Why are charity care hospitals allowed to shutter after a major disaster, but for-profit financial firms are rescued? Bush's big money boy bailout approaches $4 trillion and New Orleans/Galveston facilities remain virtually shuttered?

Some thing's wrong. If disaster capitalism has its way, for-profit hospitals will make their way into New Orleans and Galveston. Stressed nonprofit's have a funny way of throwing up their hands when things get bad enough. Could there be a fire sale after the hurricane shuttering?

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