September 10, 2009

Medical Center Damaged by Hurricane Ike Wins $200-Million Grant

In a bid to keep a top medical center on Texas’s Galveston Island, a foundation has pledged $200-million to help the center recover from Hurricane Ike and avoid relocation. The money is in addition to government funds the center will receive.

The Sealy & Smith Foundation, a grant maker in Galveston created in the 1920s that today supports the University of Texas Medical Branch, has pledged $200-million. The money, which will be paid over 15 years, will support improvements to the John Sealy Hospital and construction of a new facility called the Jennie Sealy Hospital.

Last fall’s Hurricane Ike caused roughly $1-billion in damage to the University of Texas Medical Branch, and closed most of the hospital system for months.

In light of that damage and the high costs of caring for large numbers of uninsured patients on the island, a consulting firm recommended in February that the medical branch be relocated inland.

However, local politicians, along with Sealy foundation officials and others, worked to come up with money to help keep the hospital system in Galveston. The support from the foundation and the university system, along with state and federal matching money, will total $1.4-billion.

“We had never worked directly with the legislature on anything like this, but we got together and said, ‘How can we form a partnership to get this back to being strong again and keep it on the Gulf Coast,” said Mike Doherty, executive director of the Sealy & Smith Foundation, which had about $750-million in assets as of last year.