Gov. Perry tours GNL

Gov. Rick Perry talks about what needs to be done on the state and federal levels to better respond to pandemic diseases like Ebola. Perry and Dr. Brett Giroir, back, the CEO of Texas A&M University Health Science Center, who is leading Perry’s Task Force on Infectious Disease Preparedness and Response, toured the Galveston National Laboratory in early October.

 
By JENNIFER REYNOLDS

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.

Contact reporter John Wayne Ferguson at 409-683-5226 or john.ferguson@galvnews.com.

(14) comments

Debra Criss

Agree with UT Southwestern, disagree with UTMB. Building the unit on the island shows no judgement. But then it's Perry.

Carlos Ponce

Makes sense since Galveston has facilities to incinerated medical waste and from the GDN October 17, 2014:
"Citing the University of Texas Medical Branch’s experience with handling infectious diseases, and the level of training its employees receive in containment and treatment of such diseases, the head of a state Ebola Task Force said the medical branch would be the first choice among all Texas’ hospitals to become an Ebola treatment center."
It was not Rick Perry's decision but that of Dr. Brett Giroir, the CEO of Texas A&M University Health Science Center, who is leading Perry’s Task Force on Infectious Disease Preparedness and Response who made the decision.
And yes, they're both Aggies. I'm surprised you're not blaming the Texas Aggies for putting the Ebola Treatment Center at two UT facilities. Gig 'em or Hook em?

Casey Alan

We don't agree on much but I do like your last 3 lines. Good one.

Paula Flinn

A tourist city with cruise ships docking and other visitors from all over, that could possibly be evacuated every year for a strong hurricane, would not be my first choice for an Ebola treatment center. However, after reading the GDN's endorsement, I can see where UTMB Galveston would be the "chosen" facility to have this. I can hear all the hospitals in Houston, San Antonio, and Austin breathing a collective sigh of relief. Do not tell me that they wanted it!

Debra Criss

same applies to Giroir. Bad decision.

Wayne Holt

What is it about Galveston that makes everyone else want to bring plague victims and radioactive ships into intimate contact with the natives here? If the Israelites had been in bondage in Galveston instead of Egypt, someone would have tried to sell them on the great opportunities in frog clean-up services.

If the geniuses in charge here need to have it spelled out: It does not take much to spook tourists from showing up, ready to party and spend money. Usually a fear of dying from the visit will do it. Galveston is going to regret getting the reputation of the Love Canal of the Gulf. But of course, everyone who is pushing this lives in Austin or Bryan.

BTW on Dr. Brett Giroir, who heads the task force that brought the glad tidings. He's an ex-director of one of the Pentagon's DARPA departments, the one that works on biological warfare. They probably tried to get Dr. Mengele as a first choice but he wouldn't leave Argentina.

Debra Criss

pflinn exactly....choosing a place where these additional patients will need possible evacuation..bad decision making.

Chris DeVries

I believe Kyle Janek also was involved in this decision, right?

Bill Broussard

After all is said and done, I suspect we will discover that UTMB lobbied and asked for this honor.

Casey Alan

It will spook some tourists but when all the hype dies down everyone will forget and move on to the next big thing. My sister told me of a lady she knows that wouldn't go to her sister's daughter wedding in Dallas. UTMB has had a test lab on contages disease for years. Most people don't know that and neather do the tourists.

Wayne Holt

I think you fundamentally misunderstand the difference between a research facility and a treatment facility; they are completely different animals, with different purposes, practices and protections. It doesn't surprise me you haven't figured this out: neither has the government apparently, including Gov. Goodhair.

We all had better hope the "hype dies down". It's not going so well in many parts of Africa and we have "boots on the puke" in those areas now. They will be coming home, along with the National Guard members that President Obola wants to send there. If you think a disease that mutates as prodigiously as this one does, with mortality rates climbing to 70% in some areas and with a likely aerosol transmission path is hype, I think we may have a job for you in the Infectious Disease Taskforce. You already qualify as an eternal optimist.

John Merritt

There is a very big difference between having a lab studying bad germs and treating patients with bad germs. What happens when one of the patients needs an emergency trach, or goes into cardiac arrent. As we saw in Dalllas, mistakes are bound to happen. don't wish to terrorize the public, but you don't have to be a genius to see why you would want all this stuff on an island. guess we just hope for the best. and try not to reach out and touch anyone.

Walter Manuel

This sounds like one of those "Not in my backyard" kind of governmental deals where everyone supports this type of endeavor, however no one wants it in their own community.

I agree, it's one thing to have clinical research and testing done in a secured lab, however it's a horse of another color when you have so many other people involved in caring for such a patient and being potentially exposed to a life threatening disease such as Ebola.

As a nurse myself, I understand the risks and dangers that exist everyday with any patient that I care for, but the ante is raised significantly when caring for such a patient that doesn't allow much room for the possibility of any human error.[sad]

Wayne Holt

Additionally...

We are getting tightened guidelines from the CDC now on taping closed any loose fitting areas of the hazmat suits the caregivers must wear. I already have posted the link to the article by two nationally respected respiratory protection experts who say we are doing everyone a disservice by not understanding the risk of aerosol infection agents.

This entire Ebola response, from Washington on down, smacks to me of more of the PR smoke and mirrors the Obama administration has become renowned for coupled with the Republican urge to find a way to capitalize on everything as long as 1) it is a long way from where you live and 2) you can figure out a money/power/clout angle you can use on your next resume.

Personally, I have seen enough of American government at all levels in my life to disbelieve every word that comes out of it until I independently verify the truth of the statement. And when it comes to dying in a puddle of my own puke, I hope you'll understand why I'll continue that practice.

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