Texas Liberal

All People Matter

UTMB, U. Of Texas Regents, & State Of Texas Happy To Let People Die For Being Poor

The number of the indigent patients being seen at the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston has been cut drastically.

These cuts have been mandated by the University of Texas Board of Regents and by the Texas State Legislature.

From the Houston Chronicle—

“UTMB has been edging out of the charity care business for nearly a decade and last year devoted the smallest portion of its resources to charity in memory, dropping to 2.6 percent of patient services. Charity care is a money loser, and UTMB officials say the Legislature wants it to make money, not lose it ..The decline in spending on charity care fell from 20.6 percent of total patient services in 1999 to 2.6 percent last year, according to a chart prepared by Dr. Merle Lenihan based on UTMB’s annual financial reports. Lenihan is the author of a report by the Galveston County Cancer Coalition on the county’s lack of charity policies. UTMB filled a vital role in Texas by caring for the indigent since the 19th century. Those days are gone, said Dr. Ben Raimer, UTMB senior vice president. “I think it is a different world for UTMB, but it is a world of accountability,” Raimer said…In fiscal year 2006, UTMB cared for uninsured patients from 160 of Texas’ 254 counties. By 2009 that number had dropped to 83 counties. That trend has consequences for social service agencies like Jesse Tree, based in Galveston. The organization has seen a 75 percent increase in people seeking health care since Hurricane Ike..The agency is enrolling 1,000 applicants a month seeking everything from primary care to cancer treatment, Hanley said. “We’re coming apart at the seams,” he said. Hanley said the problem is acute because half of Galveston County’s 250,000 population is uninsured….”It is their responsibility, that is a historic one, for UTMB to provide services for those that are economically disadvantaged,” said Joe Compian, a member of the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston Campaign for Human Development’s local board. “It is a state institution. It is a local institution, as well, and that means it belongs to the people of Texas and let’s do right for the people of Texas…””I think it’s a travesty,” Galveston County Judge Jim Yarbrough said. “It should be an integral part of their mission. They are the state indigent care facility, and they have patients coming from all over the state.” Yarbrough is irked that Galveston County rode to UTMB’s rescue last year, but now it can’t even get a contract with the medical school to care for the county’s poor. State law allows counties to spend $30,000 per patient, but UTMB wants twice that….To meet a condition set by the Legislature for a state bailout of UTMB, the county raised taxes by 6 cents last year to pay for indigent medical care other than checkups, such as care for diabetes or cancer..Fortified with new legislative appropriations, UTMB has embarked on a $1 billion reconstruction effort, has plans for a new surgical tower and other buildings, and reportedly expects to finish this fiscal year in the black.”

Here is the web home of the Jesse Tree charity mentioned in the article.

There are many decent people who work at UTMB who want to care for all people. But the policy decisions are made at the top and they seem to reflect callousness.

“…A world of accountability” one UTMB senior official says. What?—Being accountable for death and suffering?

And while people suffer from the lack of insurance and lack of care, the State of Texas is fighting what will be a losing battle in the courts to overturn Health Care Reform.

Here is a web page that discusses the benefits of Health Care Reform.

Our State of Texas is acting in a barbaric manner in letting people die because they don’t have health insurance.

We don’t seem to have any standards of decency at all anymore. Everything is about money and about extremist small government ideology instead of concern for our fellow human beings.

August 27, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Texas Progressive Alliance Round-Up W/ Southwest Mural By El Paso Artist Tom Lea

At the bottom of this post is the latest Texas Progressive Alliance round-up. The Texas Progressive Alliance is a confederation of the best political bloggers in Texas. 

Above is a mural called Southwest that can be found in the entrance of the main El Paso Library. It was painted in 1956 by Tom Lea and his wife Sarah Lea.

Here is the link to the El Paso Public Library that discusses this painting. 

Here is a painting of Sarah Lea by her husband at the El Paso Museum of Art.

Mr. Lea lived 1907-2001. He father was a Mayor of El Paso. More information about Mr. Lea and more of his paintings can be found at this link to the Tom Lea Collection at the Henry Ransom Center at the University of Texas. 

The round up—

BREAKING NEWS: Natural Gas Development Brings “amazing and very high” Levels of Carcinogens and Neurotoxins to Barnett Shale area!Take a deep breath before you read this study because the findings will take your breath away! TXsharon at Bluedaze: DRILLING REFORM FOR TEXASbroke this story and the study evaluation by MacArthur (Genius) Award winner, Wilma Subra.

This week at Left of College Station, Teddy reports on why the anti-choice movement is not about abortionbut about the oppression of women. Also, guest blogger Litia writes about asking non-tradition questions about Texas A&M traditions; Litia writes a weekly guest blog for College Station about a liberal teaching in Aggieland. Left of College Station also coves the week in headlines.

Neil at Texas Liberalwrites that Socialist candidate for mayor of Houston Amanda Ulman should run a serious campaign or not run at all. There once was a solid base of socialist voters in Texas and the U.S. Who says that cannot some day happen again?

McBlogger takes aim at people who think that adjusting to climate change is just something that will unfairly hurt the poor. Continue reading

October 4, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Casino Gambling—The Opportunistic Infection

Not surprisingly, with Galveston, Texas a long way from recovery after Hurricane Ike, casino gambling is on the table for the island.

Here is Dolph Tillotson, President and Publisher of the Galveston County Daily News, writing in favor of casino gambling. 

Many business owners in Galveston are hoping that casino gambling is part of the future.

For this gambling to be allowed in Galveston, it would have to be allowed in Texas in the first place.

Above you see staphylococcus aureus. It is the most common cause of staph infections. About 20% of people carry this bacteria. It does not kill in most cases. Though it can kill. For the most part, it causes a variety of troubles for the victim that can range anywhere on the scale from major to minor.

Staphylococcus aureus will do it’s damage when you give it a chance. It takes advantage of wounds and disease. It’s the cause of opportunistic infection.

Casino gambling is the same way. It moves in when there is no more hope of an economy producing anything of real value. Or when local  or state governments cannot or will not raise enough tax money to provide basic services. It sees its opportunities and it takes them. It is always waiting for its chance.

In the case of Galveston, casino gambling finds opportunity in the wake of a hurricane, and as the island’s largest employer, the U. of Texas Medical Branch, slashes thousands of jobs.

In honesty, because I don’t see another option, I’d favor at least considering this gambling in Galveston. I don’t have another solution to help people in Galveston find work. Nobody is going to help them. The liars who comprise the U. of Texas Board of Regents are doing everything possible to hurt the island for who knows what reason. 

I have moral objections to casino gambling—Yep! I sure did get married at a casino—and moral views have every place in politics and policy. (More public policy questions than we realize are moral questions. How much tax money we raise and how we spend that money are moral questions in many respects.)

Yet though I think casino gambling preys on those least able to afford it, and that it is a lousy way to fill the public coffers, it seems at this point the people of  Texas and Galveston should vote on the issue. Galveston will no doubt talk about regulating the casinos, but when they move in the people will lose control of their city government.  Though since this little city of 50,000 has no control over hurricanes, of course, or over UTMB,  what does it really matter?

Maybe I’m being pragmatic here. Or maybe I’m just fatigued trying to think about what will serve as a solution to help what I view as the most interesting and enjoyable place to visit in all Texas. If somebody has a better idea I’d like to hear it.

I’m certain the people of Galveston are very fatigued right now. I’m certain fatigue makes one more vulnerable to the type of opportunistic infection that casino gambling represents in any community that has run out of better and more hopeful choices.   

(Below—Galveston is vulnerable in many respects.)

January 10, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , | 9 Comments

Galveston—A Disaster Before And After Hurricane Ike

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Just over two weeks ago I took my first trip down to Galveston since Hurricane Ike. Ike hit in mid-September.

Above and below are pictures I took in Galveston. One is of a boat still out of the water. The other is of a very damaged pier. You can explore the online edition of the Galveston County Daily News to get some sense of life on the island today.

The upshot of what I saw in Galveston is that the outward damage to buildings could have been much worse, but that many homes and business places were flooded with sea water and need much work before they can be used again.

The fact that gets lost is that Galveston was an economic disaster zone before the hurricane. The poverty rate on the island has always been high. In 2007, 20.6% of people living in Galveston lived in poverty. This is even higher than the appalling 16.3% rate for all Texas. 

With massive layoffs at the University of Texas Medical Branch in recent days, Galveston has become even more of a disaster zone. UTMB is the largest employer in Galveston. 8,000 of its 12,000 employees live in Galveston. 3,000 people are being let go with this round of layoffs. Galveston had a pre-hurricane population of just over 50,000.

It’s a trick when we are told the hurricane was a unique disaster for Galveston. The trick is that disaster conditions that merit a special response come only every so often, and the rest of time it is business as usual.     

Of course in Texas, we do things a bit differently. The prevailing ethos under both Democratic and Republican political control in Texas has often been to kick a guy when he is down. The layoffs at UTMB, under the pretense of losses sustained since the hurricane, is a fine example of this creed. The fact of an actually acknowledged disaster was just the right time for the huge job cuts. 

Oh, for the malignant neglect of better days!      

The downsizing of UTMB began before the storm. The number of beds and services for the uninsured were already being cut.  You can take what the University of Texas Board of Regents says about the cuts being a result of the hurricane as false. They want to chop down the size of UTMB and leave Galveston, of all things, high and dry, when it comes to places to work on the island.  

Galveston is one of the founding communities of Texas. It’s history runs many years before that of most of the rest of Texas. I’m not going to pretend I have the solution to Galveston’s problems. A good starting point might be to see Galveston as worth saving. And to realize that even with the Sea Wall, Galveston has long been underwater in many regards.     

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November 21, 2008 Posted by | Galveston, Texas | , , , , , | 4 Comments

LBJ Library & Museum In Austin Should Charge Admission

I went to the Lyndon Banes Johnson Library And Museum in Austin last week.

The LBJ library is a good place and I’d recommend a visit to anybody. The staff was nice and you’ll learn a lot.

Still, my view was that the museum was not up to date in terms of interactive and modern exhibits and that much of what was on display looked like it had not been changed or updated in some time. My feelings were confirmed when I saw that the LBJ Library is the only presidential library not to charge admission.

I did see that some renovation was being done in front of the building and that the museum is running a new temporary exhibit about LBJ’s time as a Senator and as Senate Majority Leader. The Senate exhibit was in fact more interactive and modern than the rest of the museum.    

I did put $10 in the donation box and spend $26 at the gift shop. 

The LBJ library should charge an admission of a few dollars and modernize. That would make a good place even better. That, or the National Archives, the folks who run the library, should kick in some more money.

Or, since the building is on the campus of the University of Texas and UT must benefit from having the library, maybe UT could divert some money from the football team to help modernize the library. 

That would be an act consistent with the spirit of Lyndon Johnson.  

November 10, 2007 Posted by | Political History, Politics, Texas | , , , , | 5 Comments