Water poured into hospitals. Ambulances were caught up in floodwaters. Medical transport helicopters were grounded by high winds. Houston’s world-renowned health care infrastructure found itself battered by Hurricane Harvey, struggling to treat storm victims while becoming a victim itself.
The coming days will inevitably bring more hazards for storm-damaged hospitals and nursing homes and their patients and staff.
But responders point to dozens of improvements, from better engineered structures to well-practiced cooperation, that are helping protect lives. Still, sometimes even the soundest plans have been foiled.
Water rose in the basement of Houston’s Ben Taub Hospital, a major trauma center in the vast Texas Medical Center campus that had spent billions of dollars on flood protections after being devastated in Tropical Storm Allison in 2001.
Officials announced an evacuation Sunday, but hours later, a hospital spokesman said it had not yet begun because the hospital was surrounded by water and rescuers could not reach its 350 patients. On Monday, a call went out for a vendor to provide food for the hospital.
As of early Monday, six to 10 other hospitals and various nursing homes were also evacuated, said Darrell Pile, CEO of the Southeast Texas Regional Advisory Council, which established a catastrophic medical operations center in Houston’s emergency command center.
On Monday afternoon, CHI St. Luke’s Health-the Vintage Hospital in northwest Houston was evacuating, transferring its patients to a CHI St. Joseph’s hospital in the College Station area.
NEW YORK TIMES