Patients at Houston hospital await evacuation as food runs low
HOUSTON — Amid heavy rain and high water from Tropical Storm Harvey, a major Houston hospital tried to evacuate a patient who was in critical condition Sunday, but emergency workers had to cease their efforts, and the patient remained at the facility Monday.
Water had surrounded Ben Taub Hospital in Houston, closing its main entrance.
Ben Taub is the city’s largest Level 1 trauma center, which contains special equipment and staffing for mass casualty events. It was one of several facilities that upgraded their systems to keep patients safe from floodwaters after Tropical Storm Allison dumped several feet of rain on the area in 2001.
Although patients are not in danger and “no lives are at risk,” Ben Taub public information officer Brian McLeod said Monday, the hospital now “just need(s) to get enough food to continue to run the house.”
About 350 patients are in the facility, with 17 to 18 requiring ventilator support. Those are the patients who would be a priority to evacuate.
Ben Taub has about one and a half days worth of food left, so it will need to be restocked by Tuesday night if the entire patient population is not evacuated.
Many of the patients have special diets, so they are looking for a food vendor that could serve specific dietary needs.
Flooding in the area temporarily disrupted power, according to Judge Emmet, a Harris County emergency official who spoke at a news conference Sunday. He said the county had been notified that the hospital was going to be evacuated because there was floodwater in its basement and a sewer line break.
The water that had blocked the main entrance has since receded, but several of the roads around the hospital are flooded, McLeod said Monday. The power is on, McLeod said, but he characterized the general situation as a fluid one.
The hospital is working with a catastrophic medical operation center in Houston for evacuation help and to find available beds for the patients. McLeod said he hopes the hospital will be able to transport its most critical patients Monday.
“The situation is not ideal, but no one’s safety is at risk,” he said.
Other Texas health care facilities such as Texas Children’s and MD Anderson Cancer Center locations have had to cancel outpatient procedures but have kept up inpatient care. Texas Children’s Hospital’s Medical Center campus used its floodgates to keep its facilities from flooding.
As of Monday afternoon, at least 21 Texas hospitals had closed and been evacuated, according to the Texas Department of State Health Services.
St. Luke’s hospital in Houston was also evacuated Monday due to rising floodwaters.
An urban search and rescue team from Nebraska and Ohio also evacuated 80 residents from a nursing home in Katy, Texas. The team used high profile vehicles to get the elderly out.
Continuing rains make it a constantly changing situation, and hospitals are continuing to evaluate operations.