UTMB: Inmate Care Won't Change Despite Layoffs

Layoffs within the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston's correctional care program won't change the quality of care offenders get. That according to officials at UTMB, who say 363 employees in the program will lose their jobs in July. Laurie Johnson reports.

UTMB's Raul Reyes says the layoffs involve mostly registered nurses and medical assistants who represent about 10-percent of the workforce within the Correctional Care program.

"The access will not change. The level of care will not change. We're going to continue to provide the highest level possible. Who is actually providing the initial care might be different, but in the end they're going to get the highest level possible care that we can provide."

UTMB provides about 80-percent of the healthcare for prison inmates statewide and sometimes has to pay for part of that care out of its own pocket until the state reimburses it. Reyes says the money UTMB has to front is better used elsewhere.

"We need that money to continue to make sure our educational, clinical and research enterprises are the best they can be and at the same time be using that money to rebuild this place so we're never in that situation again and if we're having to pay for the offender medical care, that puts us at a disadvantage."

The job cuts could save UTMB $22 million over the next couple of years. UTMB plans to use more licensed vocation nurses to care for inmates instead of registered nurses. Texas spends an average of just under $10 a day per offender for healthcare, the lowest in the nation. California spends the most, at more than $43 per inmate every day. 

Bio photo of Laurie Johnson

Laurie Johnson

Local Host, All Things Considered

Laurie Johnson is the Houston host for All Things Considered at KUHF NPR for Houston. Before taking the anchor chair, she worked as a general assignments reporter at KUHF, starting there as an intern in 2002...