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Hospitals In Austin Are Running Out Of Water, Forcing Some To Transfer Patients

An ambulance drives on Oltorf Street in the Travis Heights neighborhood of South Austin on Tuesday.
Gabriel C. Pérez
An ambulance drives on Oltorf Street in the Travis Heights neighborhood of South Austin on Tuesday.

Local hospitals are being affected by widespread water issues in the Austin area, following severe weather this week.

St. David's South Austin Medical Center said it lost water pressure from the city Wednesday, creating a series of problems.

"Water feeds the facility's boiler, so as a result, it is also losing heat," David Huffstutler, CEO of St. David's HealthCare, said in a statement.

Huffstutler said the hospital is working with city officials to fix the situation. In the meantime, hospital and city officials are finding transportation to get patients "who are medically able to be discharged home safely."

Other patients are being sent to hospitals that have capacity. St. David's South Austin Medical Center currently has just under 300 patients, officials said.

"Because this is a state-wide emergency situation that is also impacting other hospitals within the Austin area," Huffstutler said, "no one hospital currently has the capacity to accept transport of a large number of patients."

St. David's is passing out water bottles and jugs to patients and employees to drink and wash their hands. It is figuring out a way to get portable toilets, officials said.

"Through our national partner, HCA Healthcare, we are able to secure and source food, linens, medication and supplies needed to care for and serve our patients," Huffstutler said.

Employees who are currently scheduled to work are being asked to stay in the hospital.

Seton hospitals in the area are also facing water problems.

A spokesperson for Ascension Seton said in a statement that "extreme weather conditions have caused intermittent water issues at several Ascension Seton" facilities.

In a letter obtained by KUT, patients and families at Dell Children's are being asked to not take showers and use hand sanitizer to clean their hands. They were also told the toilets can't flush ,and staff are changing linens only as needed.

"We anticipate the temperature in the building will be more difficult to maintain as the temperature drops," the letter said. "We do have a limited supply of fleece blankets available."

A spokesperson for Ascension Seton said staff is working to fix issues across their network of hospitals in the area.

"All Ascension Seton hospitals have emergency response plans in place to provide uninterrupted patient care, including access to backup generators for each care site," a spokesperson said in a statement. "Throughout the year, our hospitals prepare for a variety of emergency situations, which includes testing of backup power sources and reviewing and updating emergency response plans on a regular basis."

Ascension Seton officials say they are rescheduling elective surgeries.

St. David's officials also announced they are "canceling all non-emergent procedures" for the time being.

Copyright 2021 KUT 90.5

Ashley Lopez is a reporter forWGCUNews. A native of Miami, she graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill with a journalism degree.
Ashley Lopez
Ashley Lopez is a political correspondent for NPR based in Austin, Texas. She joined NPR in May 2022. Prior to NPR, Lopez spent more than six years as a health care and politics reporter for KUT, Austin's public radio station. Before that, she was a political reporter for NPR Member stations in Florida and Kentucky. Lopez is a graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and grew up in Miami, Florida.