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Amid Texas Chaos, a New Calamity

Hospitals are running out of water
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 18, 2021 6:49 AM CST
In Texas, a Dire Situation for Hospitals
Ambulances line up outside of St. David's South Austin Medical Center to transport patients in Austin, Texas, on Wednesday. Hospital officials said some patients at the facility would be moved to other hospitals in the area after the building began losing heat due to low water pressure.   (Bronte Wittpenn/Austin American-Statesman via AP)

The chaos in Texas amid freezing weather that has left millions in the cold and dark has made its way to the state's hospitals. One issue that has caused things to become especially dire at medical centers: a lack of running water, resulting in problems ranging from low water pressure that's causing hospitals' heating systems to fail, to other logistical and hygienic nightmares. Due to the severe cold, some pipes carrying water to hospitals have frozen and burst, and many hospitals are now desperately trying to find water from what the Washington Post calls "unorthodox sources," including water trucks, grocery store chains, park irrigation supplies, and local fire departments. St. David's South Austin Medical Center, for example, has run out of water and heat, leading the hospital to discharge some patients early, cancel "nonemergent procedures," and pass out jugs and bottles of water for patients and workers to drink and use for hand-washing, per KVUE.

Staffers there have also been told to use trash bags to take feces out of toilets. Officials at St. David's and other Texas hospitals are being forced to evacuate patients for their safety, even though, due to the power situation and the coronavirus pandemic, there aren't many places they can move patients to. "No one hospital currently has the capacity to accept transport of a large number of patients," St. David's CEO David Huffstutler tells KXAN. Other hospitals that still have some running water are asking staffers to conserve it by using hand sanitizer for hand-washing and not taking showers for now. Residents are likewise being asked to conserve water (as well as to boil it in some areas), and to not run water to keep pipes from bursting. "Quite honestly, I think we probably could have handled everything up until the water," the executive VP of Houston Methodist Hospital tells the Houston Business Journal. "The water has thrown a completely new loop onto everything." (More Texas stories.)

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