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Winter Storm 2021

Hospitals in Austin are running out of water, forcing some to transfer patients

St. David’s South Austin Medical Center said a series of problems began after it lost water pressure from the city Wednesday. Seton hospitals in the area are also facing water problems.

The Dell Seton Medical Center at The University of Texas in Austin on Feb. 17, 2021.

Winter Storm 2021

As Texas faced record-low temperatures this February and snow and ice made roads impassable, the state’s electric grid operator lost control of the power supply, leaving millions without access to electricity. As the blackouts extended from hours to days, top state lawmakers called for investigations into the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, and Texans demanded accountability for the disaster. We have compiled a list of resources for Texans who are seeking help, or places to get warm. To get updates sent straight to your phone, text "hello" to 512-967-6919 or visit this page to sign up.

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Austin-area hospitals are facing widespread water issues after 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 has just under 300 patients, officials said.

“Because this is a statewide 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 for drinking and hand-washing. 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 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 to use hand sanitizer to clean their hands. They were also told the toilets can’t flush, and staff members 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 its 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.

This story comes from KUT, Austin’s NPR station. Email Ashley Lopez at alopez@kut.org. Follow her on Twitter @AshLopezRadio.

Disclosure: Ascension Seton has been a financial supporter of The Texas Tribune, a nonprofit, nonpartisan news organization that is funded in part by donations from members, foundations and corporate sponsors. Financial supporters play no role in the Tribunes journalism. Find a complete list of them here.

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