Two months after Hurricane Ike did more than 700 million dollars worth of damage to the UTMB complex, officials laid off nearly four thousand full time employees. They said they couldn’t afford to keep them because so much of the hospital was out of commission.
After months of pressure from city and state officials, state lawmakers and even members of Congress, UTMB started hiring again in February, and employees who were laid off are first in line. By March 3rd, more than 500 had been rehired, and officials plan to rehire hundreds more.
UTMB’s future on the island was uncertain for a time, because consultants recommended that the facility be closed and moved to the mainland, where it wouldn’t be so vulnerable to severe storms. That was rejected.
A UTMB official says they laid people off because the center’s future looked so hopeless in November. She says they didn’t know how quickly they could get the hospital back up and running, or if they would have the support. She says if they only knew then what they know now, things might have been different.
Jim Bell, KUHF, Houston Public Radio News.