A letter outlining some lane closures on I-45 was sent to residents of Tiki Island. Roger Stone (all-around good guy and commuter guru) helped us track down updated details fom the project engineer at Traylor Bros., the people building the new causeway. The plan is to get all traffic on the new bridge to allow for the dismantling of the old spans. On May 30 (the Tuesday after Memorial Day) at around 9 a.m.–after the morning rush–the southbound lanes leading to the causeway will go down to two lanes so that traffic can be diverted to the new bridge. It’ll stay restricted to two lanes until June 2, while they rework the Tiki Island exit. Expect a morning rush hour back up at the bridge from 5-31 through 6-2. The good news, they’re three months ahead of schedule and should be done with both spans by Summer 2008.
Archive for May, 2006
Are you biking to work this week? A bunch of you are; I see your cycles chained neatly to the temporary rack near my office. They want your picture; come out to the hump in front of John Sealy Hospital at noon on Friday (May 19). When I heard about the photo opportunity, someone mentioned an employee who rides in from Sea Isle each day! I live in Sea Isle; I can barely manage the drive without a stop to answer the call of nature and a refill on coffee. I think I’ve seen my kids grow in my rear view mirror on some of those morning commutes. More power to you, my cycling Sea Isle neighbor.
I’m going to take off my communications wonk hat for a minute. I’m going to put, only for a moment, the painful plight of the uninsured on a shelf. Tonight, I’m just a health care consumer employed by one of the region’s largest employers. I live on the island and I have a good PPO medical plan, which means I have choices about who provides my care. I have access to the Internet, so I can get a lot of information about who does certain things the best. I’ve grown up learning to be a discriminating shopper–I expect a good product, value and service, whether I’m buying a pound of shrimp or a brainscan. Both of my kids were born at UTMB; my family and I get all our care there/here. Good experiences have been the rule, bad ones the very rare (but memorable) exception. We are established patients, know the system and have positive relationships with our care providers. But as a consumer, what sorts of choices will I be making in the future for my family? Jump forward five or ten years: Will I choose to go someplace that’s hard to access, with worn or old facilities, given other choices? Will I be satisfied with anything but the best in care or service, if alternatives are 20 minutes away? Will UTMB be then, as it is now, my provider of choice? When it’s all said and done–when Navigant’s gone, when the changes are made and the concrete is poured–much of today’s work is about tomorrow, about UTMB continuing to deliver on its promise to health care consumers like me and you. From that viewpoint, for me, our current self-inflicted turmoil makes sense.
Dr. Stobo held the first of several special Town Meetings Tuesday. There were about 500 in attendance, and many online, tuned in to campus TV and watching through the telemed network. As one would expect, there’s a lot of interest in and anxiety over Navigant and what’s going on; one could read that on the faces in the auditorium. I think Dr. Stobo did a pretty good job; his talk hit the “why” a little more directly than it has in the past, there were some good questions, and one thing came across clear: we’ll be hearing a lot more about this. That’s a good thing. Change is hard and uncertainty is frightening. In both cases, information is a good salve. If you missed it, you can catch the meeting online.
If you’ve been driving along Market St. or looking in the real estate section of the local paper, you might be surprised to see the Runge House—the residence of the university president since the late 1980s—listed for sale. One of our blog readers even wondered if this was Navigant cost cutting in action (ouch). Actually, the Stobos purchased their own home near campus (over in the Harbor View/Lindale Park neighborhood, aka “Fish Village”) a little more than a year ago. UT System has given their blessing to sell the Runge House, which will put it back on the local tax rolls and allow a beautiful home to remain a home. With the equally stunning Rosenberg House across the street, the university already has a great place to house special guests, and the money from the sale (it’s being handled by UT System) will support a new UTMB faculty position for work on Parkinson’s Disease and will provide matching funds on a grant to help provide pharmaceuticals to the uninsured. The home is appraised in the high six figures, so the proceeds could do a lot of good.
Hey, did you know today was Peace Officers Memorial Day, and this is Police Week? President John F. Kennedy signed a law in 1962 making it so. I don’t know if you know much about UTMB’s Police Department. They number about 40 commissioned police officers and 40 noncommissioned guards along with support staff, and are a great bunch of men and women. The officers are commissioned by UT System and licensed by the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement, and have the same authority and responsibilities as any Texas peace officer. Many of them have former military experience and they all take our safety very seriously. Tell ‘em thanks.
Has Navigant’s visit to the UTMB campus introduced any new jargon around your office, lab, classroom or clinic? We’re seeing some; I even referenced getting “Navigated” in an earlier post. A short list follows; send me more and if they’re G-rated I may post them:
Navigated: the act of getting your area or program reviewed by our consultants
Navicrunch: the increased workload that accompanies getting Navigated
Navistressed: how one feels during a Navicrunch
Navihint or Naviclue: a sudden desire by an area or person to demonstrate or quantify good value/service to the institution
Navicide: Pointing out the shortcomings of other institutional areas in order to bolster one’s own interests
Naviguile: (new) the outwardly friendly and charming mannerisms of our consultant’s very professional staff
Navigutted: (new) what people fear may happen to areas that are bloated or ineffective
Any of these ring a bell? All joking aside, this is a period of extra work, some stress and with the potential for a lot of misinformation. If you want to hear what’s going on and maybe ask a few questions of your own, there’s a special Town Meeting coming up May 16.
The dog and I were treated to a pleasant surprise this morning: the thermometer on the deck read 66 degrees. I’ll take this sort of weather over 90s and high humidity any time. If you’ve never seen it, UTMB has a fairly informative weather page that was built by Don Brunder.
Not to beat a dead horse, but now we’ve got statistics to back up what I suggested in an earlier post was a bad case of societal blahs. A front-page article in Wednesday’s Houston Chronicle talks about a recent poll where most respondents saw “a hard road ahead” for our country. This is one prophecy which I’d rather see not be self-fulfilling.
Two people asked me the same question this past week: ”Are we still using the slogan Here for the Health of Texas.“ The question struck me as odd, until I thought about it from the perspective of frontline clinical folks grappling with the impact of DAMP and hearing about our need to enhance revenue. So, I understand the question, but I’d propose this: we serve the health needs of this state in many ways beyond taking care of the state’s un- and underinsured, noble and traditional for us as that role is. To say we’re just about the uninsured is to discount our education mission. Where would Texas be without our graduates, an army of nurses, doctors, scientists and health professionals scattered to and serving in every corner of the Lone Star? (Did you know that one in four of the physicians in Texas has received some of their training at UTMB?) What about the research we do, work that spans from the first days of a premie’s life to the sunset of our elders, fundamental work of discovery, work to relieve suffering, improve and extend good life? What about our public outreach and partnerships, and all the other interrelated activities that make an academic health center strong?
Even if we choose to qualify this statement in terms of our service to the uninsured, the numbers suggest it’s still a claim we can stake. In our current mix of patients, the unsponsored and patients with private insurance run neck-and-neck. And if you look at the most recent report from the National Association of Public Hospitals and Health Systems (issued Nov. 2005 using 2003 data, Appendix C, Table 5, pages 30-31), UTMB is still in the top 10 nationally in a long list of reporting hospitals in terms of the percentage of our budget that goes to charity care. And we’re working to continue to serve the uninsured and spend our limited dollars in smarter, more sustainable ways: take the 3-Share Program and Virtual HMO as two examples. So, are we still Here for the health of Texas? For me, there are no doubts.