Central Texas hospitals deal with interrupted water service, other problems after winter storms

Austin

AUSTIN (KXAN) — Hospitals in the Austin area continue dealing with lowered water pressure while medical staff work long hours and face significant challenges.

Portable toilets were delivered to St. David’s South Austin Medical Center on Thursday morning, after nurses inside captured photos of bags over toilet seats.

“I don’t think people really realize the gravity of the situation,” Natascha Schwenke, a Triage Nurse for the Ascension network, said. 

Though Schwenke works for a different network, she said conditions caused by winter storms in hospitals and beyond will kill people if they don’t get better soon. 

“The emergency rooms from what we’re hearing are getting back logged,” Schwenke said. 

James Ploen said he witnessed some of this chaos at Ascension Seton in Kyle. His wife was hospitalized after slipping and falling, breaking her femur. 

“They were overcrowded, overwhelmed,” Ploen said. “Patients were being put in beds in hallways.”

The Acension Network said in a statement: 

“Our highest priority is the safety and wellbeing of the patients and communities we are privileged to serve. While extreme weather conditions have caused intermittent water issues at several Ascension Seton sites of care, facility teams worked quickly yesterday to resolve many of the issues and continue to work on resolutions today. All Ascension Seton hospitals have emergency response plans in place and continue to provide uninterrupted patient care, including access to backup generators for each care site and compliance with the citywide water boil notice. 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 leadership continues to review operations for our network of hospitals and evaluate staffing and resources based on the rapidly evolving weather conditions and community needs. Effective February 17, Ascension Seton is rescheduling elective surgeries at all sites of care to preserve inpatient hospital bed capacity and redirect clinical personnel. We will notify all patients impacted by this change, and continue to evaluate operations on a daily basis.” 

KXAN has received other reports of some hospitals running low on food for staff and patients.

“We need to be accountable,” Schwenke said. “If you don’t do that, this is what happens, just not prepared. And I just feel like it shouldn’t be like this.”

Some St. David’s facilities also lost water pressure completely or had diminished pressure Wednesday and Thursday, requiring water tank trucks to be deployed.

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