WILLIAMSON COUNTY, Texas (KXAN) — A Texas state representative is calling for lawmakers to make more changes after one of his neighbors died because he could not access dialysis during the prolonged blackout that followed last week’s historic winter storm.
Rep. John Bucy III, a Democrat who represents western Williamson County in District 136, said the man who died lives down the street from him in his own neighborhood, confirming news that KUT first reported.
Bucy said it appears the man could not leave his house to get to dialysis due to the conditions.
“This is a life we didn’t have to lose. We could have gotten help if we had known to help, so we’ve got to think through how we deal with this moving forward,” Bucy said. “On a personal level, you know, we could have done more, and we should have done more. It’s just devastating to see our constituents die due to our government failures here.”
Bucy said discussions about reforming the Energy Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) are important, large-scale efforts for the state to now tackle. He noted hearings begin this week about how the power grid operator handled its response to the storm.
However, he said lawmakers must also pay attention to and address how to better help the most vulnerable in society, like those dealing with critical medical problems, during a crisis.
“I know the first day we spent a lot of time trying to come up with charging stations for people’s oxygen, but this is something people have to get out of their house to get to for dialysis,” Bucy said. “We need to come up with a plan, and I don’t have all of the answers, so we need everyone’s input on that.”
One possible reform Bucy suggested would be to create a voluntary registry for people on dialysis so that local leaders and emergency responders know whom to reach for help in a disaster.
“We’ve got to look at oversight like that,” he said. “We need to look into all of this and find out what we can do to make sure these important systems do not go offline because it has life and death consequences.”
Bucy said he received confirmation that the state requires dialysis clinics to have an emergency generator and 24 hours of fuel.
He said he plans to work with the man’s family on potential reforms. He told KXAN that he already received their contact information and would soon reach out to them.
“I’m committed to this cause of helping those that are the most vulnerable in our community, and they can’t be forgotten about or left aside just because we’re all suffering simultaneously,” Bucy said. “We have to constantly be looking out for those most in need, and that’s highlighted here by our seniors. We’ve seen struggles in senior homes and those with medical needs. Four days of blackouts is unacceptable, and it can never happen again.”
Ongoing water distribution
Bucy said access to clean water remains the biggest problem in his district, especially in Leander.
The City of Leander posted on Twitter Monday afternoon that its bottled water distribution site at Leander High School had to close because of a lack of supply. The city is asking people to find out the latest information on its website.
Williamson County also posted a lengthy list where people can find water-filling stations throughout the area.