GALVESTON — Four days after the move was first recommended, Gov. Rick Perry announced the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston will be one of the state’s two designated Ebola treatment centers.
Perry made the announcement Tuesday morning during a news conference at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas. Southwestern, in partnership with Dallas’ Methodist Health System and Parkland Hospital, will manage the state’s other designated treatment center.
“Treating infectious disease like Ebola is not just a theoretical problem,” Perry said. “The goal is for these facilities to rival the most advanced units in the world when it comes to the quality of care and the security and the safety of the personnel in those facilities.”
Medical branch officials had anticipated the announcement for weeks, as state officials made multiple trips to Galveston to discuss the possibility of making the medical branch a treatment center.
“UTMB is prepared to help fight Ebola and other infectious diseases,” President David Callender was quoted as saying in the governor’s statement. “I have every confidence in our abilities to provide the highest level of care and we are proud that the governor has placed this trust in us, as well as UT Southwestern, Methodist and Parkland.”
Perry’s Task Force on Infectious Disease Preparedness and Response announced Friday it would recommend the medical branch as one of state’s two Ebola treatment centers. The task force cited the medical branch’s experience in handling infectious diseases in its research facilities, and in training organizations in biocontainment procedures, as the reasons for the choice.
More broadly, the state said the treatment centers were being designated to “to better protect health care workers and the public from the spread of pandemic diseases.”
Perry has not signed an executive order, or similar document, that mandates future Ebola patients be sent to one of the two locations. Such an action is not required, health officials said.
“Just as treatment decisions for people needing transplants and other specialized care are based on the most appropriate placement for the patient, these new state centers would be the best options for an Ebola patient,” said Stephanie Goodman, a spokeswoman for the Texas Health and Human Services Commission.
Last week, after the recommendation was announced, medical branch officials said they were prepared to accept Ebola patients who were identified within their own health care system, but that more details about accepting patients from without the system would still need to worked out.
Even so, task force head Bret Giroir said during the news conference that both the Dallas and Galveston hospital systems were “named, screened and ready to receive patients.”
John Sealy Hospital, on the medical branch’s East End campus, is home to three isolated biocontainment units that could be used to treat Ebola patients. Callender said last week that the hospital was ordering extra supplies and initiating more training to help handle future Ebola patients.
The Dallas treatment center, which will be located in a continuing care facility in Richardson, has 10 available beds, The Dallas Morning News reported Tuesday.
As of Tuesday, more than 100 people in the Dallas area were being monitored by health officials because they possibly came into contact with an Ebola patient or a patient’s bodily fluids. None are believed to have contracted Ebola.