WEBSTER

In the months since Bay Area Regional Medical Center suddenly shuttered, Shannan Sillen managed to find other work, she said.

But, while life has moved on since she was laid off as an MRI technician in May, she misses her time at the Webster hospital, she said.

“I love this hospital,” Sillen said. “It was like a family. I really enjoyed working here.”

Which is what led Sillen and about 140 others, including former hospital employees, to a job fair Thursday in Webster held by the University of Texas Medical Branch, which will open a new operation in the building.

Thursday’s job fair was exclusively for people who lost their jobs when the medical center closed.

“It’s been a roller coaster,” Sillen said. “My husband and I both worked here.”

Kathleen Ingram, who also was among the 900 laid off when the hospital closed, is working in Baytown now, she said. But she’s hopeful of getting a job as a house supervisor with the medical branch, in part, because of good benefits, she said.

But others, like Josephine Chan, haven’t found new work.

Chan is a registered nurse who thought she would retire at the hospital, she said. She hasn’t found a job since the medical center closed in May.

The medical branch plans to hire about 300 employees for the hospital’s first day of operation sometime in spring 2019, said Katrina Lambrecht, vice president of health system operations and regional hospitals for the medical branch. But officials hope to grow from there, she said.

The University of Texas System Board of Regents in late October finalized a lease agreement with HC-200 Blossom Street LLC to rent the building formerly occupied by Bay Area Regional Medical Center through at least 2033. The building will be renamed the UTMB Health Clear Lake Campus, according to the medical branch.

The medical branch will pay $210 million in rent for the facility over the next 15 years, officials said. The lease includes an option to buy the building after five years, according to the agreement.

The medical branch plans to expand its cardiac and neuroscience services at the Webster hospital, in addition to using the space to further research and training opportunities, Lambrecht said.

The facility would be full-service community hospital, Lambrecht said.

Officials with Bay Area Regional Medical Center closed in May, saying at the time the hospital would file for bankruptcy. As of Thursday afternoon, there were no federal bankruptcy filings involving the hospital or its owners.

When it closed, 60 percent of the hospital was owned by Carter Validus Mission Critical REIT Inc., a real estate investment trust. The other 40 percent was owned by the property’s developer, an affiliate of Medistar Corp.

The connection between those companies and the limited liability corporation named in the lease was not immediately clear.

The nine-story, $160 million hospital opened in 2014 with aims of being a full-service hospital for people living south of Houston. The building has state-of-the-art operating rooms and upscale aesthetics, such as bistro-style eating areas.

It opened amid a boom of other hospital openings in the Clear Lake area, including at the University of Texas Medical Branch’s Victory Lakes campus in League City.

Medical branch officials were interested in leasing the Webster hospital because there’s demand for such services in the area, Lambrecht said.

The medical branch is the largest employer in Galveston County, with about 13,200 employees. It has an annual operating budget of about $2 billion.

The medical branch is planning other job fairs to fill the positions, officials said.

Matt deGrood: 409-683-5230; matt.degrood@galvnews.com

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