AUSTIN (KXAN) — St. David’s South Austin Medical Center lost water pressure Wednesday, resulting in having to transfer at least 30 patients to other area hospitals and others being discharged to go home.

Chief Executive Officer David Huffstutler wrote in a statement to KXAN the water also feeds the facility’s boiler, so it was also losing heat. Right now, the hospital has nearly 300 patients.

In an update Thursday, Huffstutler said in a statement “despite the heating system being boiler-, and therefore water-driven, we were able to get a water truck in to alleviate the issues on the heating system.”

Through this, they were able to make a closed-loop system in the hospital to keep warm, according to Huffstutler. “At this time, the hospital is no longer experiencing heating issues,” St. David’s said.

The water trucks will be able to recharge the facility’s water pressure to allow the use of toilets and other non-potable water needs. Huffstutler said they have plenty of bottled water for the moment.

While water and heat issues at St. David’s South seemed to be resolved, the City of Austin’s water issues are affecting water pressure at St. David’s Medical Center and Heart Hospital of Austin now, Huffstutler said. Water trucks are being deployed to these facilities in addition to St. David’s South.

Additionally, St. David’s said four of its hospitals (St. David’s Medical Center, St. David’s South Austin Medical Center, St. David’s North Austin Medical Center and Heart Hospital of Austin) are included in the City of Austin boil water notice.

“We are working with our supply chain to provide water for our patients, staff and hospital operations. We began supplementing our onsite water inventory last week, and supplies are continuing to arrive,” a statement from Huffstutler said.

All hospitals in the St. David’s system have been able to keep power throughout the winter storms, and have not had to use emergency power generation. Medical staff have been sheltering at the hospitals so they could avoid travel on dangerous, iced-over roads.

“They have been rotating working and sleeping, which made it possible for us to maintain staffing and coverage,” Huffstutler said in the statement. “Our employees have been nothing shot of phenomenal.

Emergency efforts at St. David’s South

On Wednesday, an “incident command team” was working at the hospital to find a solution with the City of Austin to the lack of water pressure. They were also working with the city to find transportation for patients who are medically able to be taken home.

Other patients most in need were taken to other hospitals, Huffstutler said. But he explained this issue is affecting other hospitals in the Austin area, and “no one hospital currently has the capacity to accept transport of a large number of patients.”

Other emergency tasks and efforts include:

  • Distributing bottles and jugs of water for patients and employees to drink and wash their hands
  • Working to get water trucks to the hospital as quickly as possible
  • Working with the City of Austin to secure portable toilets
  • Asking employees currently on shift to continue to stay at the hospital 
  • Communicating with families of current patients about the situation
  • Canceling all non-emergency procedures

St. David’s South said through its national partner, HCA Healthcare, it was able to secure food, linens, medication and supplies for patients.

“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 said in the statement.

Additionally, St. David’s HealthCare is working with regional suppliers to provide water for patients, staff and hospital operations after Austin Water issued a citywide boil water notice. Drinking water was delivered to facilities last week, and more supplies are on the way this week. They are working to get water trucks on site at the hospitals as quickly as possible.

Ascension Seton faces water issues

Some Ascension Seton facilities are also experiencing water issues Wednesday evening.

“While extreme weather conditions have caused intermittent water issues at several Ascension Seton sites of care, facility teams are working quickly to resolve the issues,” a spokesperson with the hospital system said in an email Wednesday evening.

All Ascension Seton hospitals have emergency response plans in place to facilitate patient care, including backup generators at each care site, the hospital system said.

Every year, the hospitals prepare for a variety of emergency situations, which include regular testing of backup power sources and updating response plans.

“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,” the spokesperson said.

As a result of these issues, Ascension Seton is rescheduling elective surgeries at all sites of care to preserve inpatient hospital bed capacity. Staff is planning to notify all patients impacted by this and will continue to evaluate operations daily.