Texas Seeks Relief as Winter Storm Damage Piles Up
• Feb 20, 2021
Amid widespread power losses, millions of Texans were also advised to boil their water for safety. Hospitals are facing those same challenges and a surge in dialysis patients.
Hospitals in Texas are losing resources and gaining patients.
Chaotic scenes were playing out all over Texas on Thursday as hospitals faced an onslaught of problems from the brutal storm: wintry indoor temperatures, a dearth of generators, acute water shortages and a spike in emergency room visits by patients in desperate need of dialysis treatment and oxygen tanks.
“We’re hauling in water on trucks in order to flush toilets,” said Roberta L. Schwartz, an executive vice president and the chief innovation officer at Houston Methodist, which operates seven hospitals around the country’s fourth-largest city. Water, she said, was in such short supply that health workers were using bottled water for chemotherapy treatments.
The water challenges extended to about 13 million Texans who are being told to boil water for their safety after burst pipes and broken water mains. Another winter storm on Thursday brought freezing rain, snow and temperatures that were “much below average,” a gut punch for people who have resorted to stoves, barbecue grills and gasoline generators to stay themselves warm.
Days of glacial weather have left at least 38 people dead nationwide, made many roads impassable, disrupted vaccine distribution and blanketed nearly three-quarters of the continental United States in snow.
In Texas, hospitals such as St. David’s South Austin Medical Center said they were transferring some patients to other facilities as they desperately tried to conserve resources. Parts of the ceiling collapsed at the Baylor University Medical Center in Dallas after a pipe burst, spraying water directly into the emergency room.
Some of the challenges facing the hospitals are tied to problems cascading through the state’s beleaguered health care system since the storm and power grid crisis. An influx of dialysis patients, for instance, is placing stress on hospital emergency rooms because many dialysis centers — which require electricity, heat and large amounts of filtered water to properly provide care — are temporarily closed.
At one of Houston Methodist’s hospitals, doctors turned an old intensive care unit into a makeshift dialysis unit, transferring 42 patients out of the cramped emergency room on Wednesday. And in parts of East Texas, health care workers are growing so alarmed about patients going without dialysis treatment over the past week that they are asking local police departments to do welfare checks.
“This can be a death sentence for some of our patients,” said Kara McClure, a social worker in the Tyler area.
You can read the full article by The New York Times here.