Story at a glance
- The Southern U.S. is being ravaged by historic snowfall that is causing major electric disruptions, especially in Texas.
- Rolling blackouts and utility failures have forced some to evacuate patients.
- Hospitals in the state have been crowded with COVID-19 patients amid the ongoing pandemic.
Just as coronavirus hospitalizations began dropping across Texas, Winter Storm Uri crippled hospitals with power outages and water disruptions, forcing emergency evacuations.
In the city of Austin a number of hospitals and care centers are evacuating patients even as the storm continues outside — and there aren’t many places for patients to go.
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“Because this is a statewide emergency situation that is also impacting other hospitals within the Austin area, no one hospital currently has the capacity to accept transport of a large number of patients," David Huffstutler, CEO of St. David’s HealthCare, said in a statement to the Texas Tribune.
St. David’s and another hospital in the area, Ascension Seton, are rescheduling nonemergency procedures and elective surgeries, making room for the influx of patients from the storm. At least 10 are reported dead in Texas, and freezing temperatures are endangering thousands without power.
So far, backup generators have allowed hospitals to continue operating, but several hospitals in Austin are facing problems with water pressure, losing heat and supply as local officials issued a boil water notice on Wednesday.
"I am personally directing every resource available within our healthcare system to find solutions to best care for and serve our patients during this challenging time," Huffstutler told the Austin American-Statesman.
In Houston, where officials have also issued a boil water notice, pipes burst in several hospitals, reported the Houston Chronicle, and some facilities are operating without running water. The same problems have been reported in San Antonio, forcing hospitals to use jugs and bottles of water for patients and limiting showers and hand-washing.
“We’re all working together, just like we’ve done before, pulling resources from wherever they exist, and then sharing those resources,” Mayor Sylvester Turner told the Houston Chronicle.
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