Texas Nurses Trek to Work in Snow as Other Hospitals Are Forced to Evacuate amid Water Shut-Offs
Nurses in Texas are braving the extreme, unprecedented weather to make it to work, while hospitals across the state are being forced to work around serious water outages, with some even evacuating patients.
Brooke Wilson, a labor and delivery nurse at St. David's Women's Center of Texas in North Austin, told CBS affiliate KHOU she trekked to her job in the snow earlier this week, a journey that took about half an hour.
"I didn't want to let them down. I didn't want people to be spread thin," she said. "That's not safe for patients, it's not safe for us. It's much more emotionally draining if you have to take on a higher patient load just out of necessity because of the emergency situation that we're in."
Amy Belknap, an oncology nurse manager with Ascension Seton Medical Center Austin, did the same, though her commute was nearly a mile away.
Belknap told KHOU that another one of her colleagues walked almost two hours to work, while someone else who lived nearby came in on her day off.
"I have slept for two hours, but I am not unique in this situation," she said. "We've been rotating staff so that we can give everybody breaks and take turns. And I'm really proud of the team up here. We have just been looking out for each other and helping each other out throughout this very unusual time."
Conditions at medical centers across the state have been deteriorating amid citywide water boil notices.
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Many in the Austin area have either run out of water or are dealing with extremely low water pressure, including St. David's South Austin, which had to ask employees to use trash bags to remove feces from the toilet so as not to have to flush, ABC affiliate KVUE reported.
Other local hospitals affected by water issues include Ascension Seton Southwest Hospital and Dell Children's Medical Center, according to the Washington Post. The latter reportedly sent a memo to employees informing them that the toilets were not able to flush.
At St. David's in Austin, where there are about 300 patients, CEO David Huffstutler told the Post that the hospital would try to transfer the most critical of its patients, but that no hospital nearby has the capacity to accept a large number of transfers. He said others would be discharged early.
Meanwhile, in Houston, two Houston Methodist locations, in Baytown and west Houston, were operating without water after pipes burst, the Houston Chronicle reported.
The outlet reported that city officials were doing their best to provide hospitals with water, and that the water supply typically used to irrigate parks was being used.
In Austin, city officials said Wednesday that water use had surpassed its typical usage by 250 percent over the past 24 hours "due to dripping faucets/pipe leaks/line breaks from freezing temps causing pressure & storage to significantly drop."
At least 24 people have died in the extreme weather, according to CBS News.