Officials from The University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston are engaged in talks to lease a Webster hospital that closed abruptly in May—an arrangement which would deepen UTMB’s mission in the region.
The Bay Area Regional Medical Center, which opened in 2014, had 191 beds upon its sudden closure three months ago after the company announced plans to file for bankruptcy. According to the Texas Workforce Commission, the hospital employed more than 900 people.
Last week, the University of Texas System Board of Regents approved UTMB’s continued negotiations to enter into a long-term lease for the property.
Upon a final agreement, which could be reached in the next few weeks, UTMB plans to work with faculty and program leaders—along with Bay Area physicians—to determine how to best use the property.
“It will be a hospital. There will be an emergency room there,” said Becky Korenek, UTMB’s senior vice president for strategic planning and business development. “Our whole intent here is to really focus on furthering our mission areas, particularly in education, research and patient care. We will use this facility to help us fulfill those mission areas.”
She could not discuss costs because the parties are “still finalizing these negotiations,” but elaborated on the value of UTMB having access to the property.
“One thing to understand with this arrangement is that we have been, over the last couple of years, working more directly with physicians in the community. I do think that providing services at this location will also lend itself to working with more physicians in the local area,” Korenek said. “As we finalize these negotiations over the next two weeks, we will then move into the next steps related to how we define services and the additional beds that go to that location.”
The lease negotiations are happening amid plans to add 60 beds to the 37-bed hospital on UTMB’s League City campus. The health care center opened in 2016 and includes an emergency room and mother-baby unit with Level II infant special care capability as well as adult medical and surgical services.
“We have an expansion plan for that facility that should come to fruition in 2020. But, between now and then, we really needed to have some additional beds for our patients. We have a great following from that area and we want to be able to continue to care for more patients in that market,” Korenek said. “We looked at where our patients are coming from and it’s in that Greater Bay Area community. … It’s really important to us to deliver the care in a place that is close to and accessible to our patients. While we have services on the island, we have to look at where our patients come from—and they come from the Greater Bay Area—so this was really the next step in that process.”
The Galveston Bay area, home to NASA’s Johnson Space Center, includes the cities of Dickinson, Kemah, La Marque, League City, Nassau Bay, Seabrook, Webster and Texas City.
Harris County’s Webster and Galveston County’s League City are neighboring municipalities. Both are about 30 miles from the UTMB main campus on Galveston Island, which includes a Level I Trauma Center.
In 2016, UTMB dedicated the 250-bed Jennie Sealy Hospital in Galveston and continues to work to modernize the nearby John Sealy Hospital.
UTMB also has a network of clinics across several counties and operates a hospital at its Angleton Danbury campus in Brazoria County.
Also known as UTMB Health, UTMB became a Texas Medical Center institution in 2010.
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