I am writing to provide an update on our recovery and the restoration of our operations from the fire and smoke damage which occurred at John Sealy Hospital and John Sealy Annex on January 4. It was a very serious event that caused substantial physical damage, but a real tragedy was averted by the calm, measured and even heroic actions of our employees who delivered all patients—and themselves—to safety.
Since the fire, tremendous efforts by numerous UTMB employees and faculty allowed us to quickly relocate patient care units affected by last week’s incident. Fortunately, John Sealy Annex was brought back on line quickly, allowing the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) and some Labor and Delivery services to return to their permanent locations last Sunday. The Antepartum, Mother/Baby, Pediatrics and Burn Units, however, have been relocated to Jennie Sealy Hospital, where they are expected to remain until the John Sealy Towers reopen for patient care.
Our Emergency Department continues to be open for all patient transfers and emergency services, but we remain on “diversion” status for STEMI, or acute heart patients. At this time, we have only one Cardiac Catheterization Lab available in the Operating Room, which is adequate to serve our heart patients already in the hospital. We intend to activate a second Cardiac Catheterization Lab in the Interventional Radiology suite tomorrow. When this second lab is operational, we’ll be able to again accept STEMI patients through our Emergency Department and restore our full complement of heart services to all patients.
Regarding outpatient services affected by last week’s fire, we have relocated the burn clinic to the University Hospital Clinics (UHC). We will soon re-open our Galveston Sleep Lab in an alternative space, yet to be finalized.
While our physicians and employees have moved at breakneck pace to keep patient care services up and running, this massive relocation has temporarily displaced about 60 inpatient beds, which is significantly straining our overall capacity in Jennie Sealy Hospital. As a result, we are asking physicians, residents and care managers to ensure timely discharges of patients. We also are seeking patience, cooperation and collaboration on everyone’s part while we work through these space challenges and continue to deliver the Best Care to our patients. We expect to need 6-8 weeks to thoroughly clean and fully restore the most seriously damaged areas in John Sealy Hospital. Patient and employee safety is and will continue to be our first priority throughout the process.
As more information becomes available regarding timelines for full recovery, we will post updates on www.utmb.edu/recovery. The site includes, among other information, links to a Health System intranet page with current locations of patient care units; a UTMB network connection or VPN connection is required to view the intranet page.
As I continue to hear stories about the compassion and bravery shown during this recent event, I am deeply grateful, impressed and proud to be part of such an amazing team of staff, faculty and health care professionals known to us as our UTMB family. As always, please feel free to share those stories with me and our executive vice presidents.
Thank you for all that you do to make UTMB a very successful—and special—place.
Dr. David L. Callender