UTHCT goes on alert status to prepare for Hurricane Rita

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

The University of Texas Health Science Center at Tyler has gone on alert status to help its neighbors to the south prepare for the potentially devastating Hurricane Rita, expected to strike the Texas Gulf Coast sometime early Saturday morning.

David Lakey, MD, medical director for the Center for Pulmonary and Infectious Disease Control at UTHSCT and an infectious disease specialist, will again head up the Medical Operations Center, part of Smith County’s Emergency Operations Center. In this role, Dr. Lakey will oversee the medical care provided at the four evacuee shelters currently being set up in Tyler. Dr. Lakey earlier served in this position for the Tyler shelters housing evacuees from Hurricane Katrina.

In addition, Kent Davis, MD, director of UTHSCT’s Center for Healthy Aging, will be working with nursing homes as called upon to coordinate the placement of any residents that may need to be relocated to this area, UTHSCT President Dr. Kirk A. Calhoun said.

"Additionally, we are being called on to assist our sister institution, The University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston, to help them evacuate some of their correctional patients in anticipation of Hurricane Rita’s landfall," Dr. Calhoun said.

"Having learned through the lessons of Hurricane Katrina how important it is that an area’s inmate population be managed effectively, we are preparing to accept at least 20 inmate patients. They will be housed so that they will be isolated from our regular patient population," he said. Several of these are ICU or ventilator dependent patients, Dr. Calhoun said.

"UTMB is sending nursing staff and the Texas Department of Criminal Justice will be sending enough officers and staff to safely manage this process," he said. "The Health Center also will provide other backup services for UTMB, our sister institution, as needed.

"The message that we have given to our employees is that our first priority is to our patients. We will continue to provide them with excellent patient care," said Dr. Calhoun. "Disruption to the normal patient care operation of our Health Center will be kept to a minimum.

"We are a state institution and our sister institution is facing a potentially catastrophic hurricane. We have an obligation to step up and help them in any way that we can. I am so proud to be able to serve UTMB and our fellow Texans in this way," he said.

UTMB Correctional Managed Care provides medical, dental, and mental health services to 80 percent of the inmate population in Texas.

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