Texas state health officials thought they were turning a corner Thursday, as hospitals in Houston and the southeast corner of the state started reopening after Hurricane Harvey’s torrential rains and high waters forced their closure over the past week. But then the Neches River kept rising and Beaumont’s water pump broke, cutting off water supplies to the city. Baptist Hospitals of Southeast Texas in Beaumont had to shut down and evacuate.
“Due to the failure of the city’s water pump, it is in the best interest of our current patients to transfer to other acute care facilities,” the hospital said in a statement. “Due to the city-wide lack of services, we have no other alternative but to discontinue all services which will include emergency services. This is being done immediately.”
As of Thursday morning, 165 missions had transported 1,086 patients out of health care facilities statewide that were affected by Harvey, according to the Texas Department of State Health Services. At least 17 Texas hospitals remain closed Thursday.
Leaders at CHRISTUS St. Elizabeth Hospital decided to remain open Thursday, but they put out a message that its emergency and trauma center will be open for only urgent cases and patients who are seriously injured, in order to be sure they have enough water for the 256 patients still at the hospital.
“The situation is critical; however, CHRISTUS St. Elizabeth infrastructure was built to sustain during crisis situations as the one our community is enduring due to massive amounts of rain and flooding from Hurricane and Tropical Storm Harvey,” CHRISTUS Southeast Texas Health System CEO Paul Trevino said in the statement.
The hospital said it has two water wells that can keep the facility running. Drinking water is stored on campus for exactly this kind of emergency, and hospital administrators believe they can bring in more potable water if necessary. But even with water conservation protocols, there is enough for only medical staff and patients. Hospital leaders strongly encouraged family members not to visit unless absolutely necessary.
“We are sheltering in place with our remaining patients who require hospitalization, and have enough supplies to continue to provide high-quality care for the next several days,” Trevino said. “Our faith remains steadfast that our community will continue to persevere in this crisis.”
The Medical Center of Southeast Texas in Port Arthur remains open, even with its parking lot submerged. Staff members have improvised a system to get patients to the hospital.
People who need the hospital’s help must get to a meeting point where a dump truck can take them through the high water to the perimeter of the property. A boat then takes them to the hospital, spokeswoman Joanie Brady said.
The Marine Corps will use a helicopter to get more supplies to the medical center Thursday night, Brady said. On Friday, 72 nurses will be arriving in Houston from Phoenix, Salt Lake City, Texarkana and Woodland Park, Colorado to relieve staffers who have been on shift since August 25 in the company’s facilities in Port Arthur and Houston.
Brookdale Dowlen Oaks, a nursing care facility in Beaumont, is also doing what it can to stay open. It has an emergency supply of water on hand, and “residents and associates are doing well and are well-cared-for” while the staff is doing “steadfast” and “heroic” work, spokeswoman Heather Hunter said.
Beaumont City Manager Kyle Hayes said he is unable to provide a timeline for when the water will be restored.