Texas’ power outages, water shortages put bigger strain on hospitals

By EMILY SHAPIRO and SASHA PEZENIK, ABC News

(NEW YORK) — As a historic winter storm knocks out power and bursts pipes across Texas, hospitals in the lone star state are facing additional stress.

Hospitals, already contending with COVID-19 patients, are now helping people whose supplemental oxygen tanks have run out, or those whose home medical equipment requires electricity and must now seek power in emergency departments, Lori Upton, vice president of the Southeast Texas Regional Advisory Council, told ABC News.

The Southeast Texas Regional Advisory Council covers 187 hospitals and 25 counties in the state and helps coordinate between providers, responders and health care partners.

With power out and supplies running thin, people are turning to hospitals for what they’re accustomed to getting homebound, like a feeding tube or an external defibrillator that needs batteries to recharge, Upton said.

As of Wednesday, about 800 people were being held in emergency departments for oxygen or electricity for their equipment, she said.

Over 600,000 customers in Texas remained without power Thursday morning.

Galveston Mayor Craig Brown told ABC News’ Good Morning America Thursday that the city’s hospital “ran dangerously low on water” due to burst pipes. Now that they’ve been able to refill the tanks, they’re back up and running, he said.

Brown called the electricity and water crisis “worse than a hurricane.”

“In a hurricane you can go to the mainland and get away from this. In this particular situation, no matter where you go in Texas, you still have a concern that is similar to what we have here,” he said.

In Houston, hospitals are operating but many have reduced water pressure, ABC Houston station KTRK-TV reported.

Two Austin area hospitals have also faced water outages, ABC affiliate KVUE-TV reported.

Boil water advisories were issued in Houston and Austin.

There’s also the issue of icy roadways, making it more treacherous for ambulances to transport patients to safety.

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