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

Hospitals from Austin to Houston to Galveston are facing water problems.

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 450,000 customers in Texas remained without power Thursday afternoon. More than 900 public water systems and 164 counties in Texas have reported disruptions in service due to the weather, affecting more than 13.6 million people, according to the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality.

Galveston Mayor Craig Brown told "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 reported.

Two Austin area hospitals have also faced water outages, ABC affiliate KVUE 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 and for hospital workers to get to their shifts safety.

Medical City Healthcare hospitals in Dallas and Fort Worth have "provided lodging and food for hundreds of colleagues to assure staff would not have to travel on dangerous roads and would be available to provide patient care," a hospital spokesperson said in a statement. "We’ve had hundreds of colleagues stay overnight in our hospitals across our system. It’s remarkable. Everyone is pitching in. Our leaders and office colleagues are are picking up colleagues from hotels and homes, changing linens, delivering meals."

Click here for tips to stay safe during a power outage and click here to learn how to keep your water safe during a boil water advisory.

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