The first ambulances finally arrived at Ben Taub Hospital, in the heart of Houston’s vast Texas Medical Center, to remove five patients clinging to life on ventilators.
The county hospital had initially planned to transfer all of its 350 patients. As the remnants of Hurricane Harvey continued to unleash epic rains, a foot of water was rising in the hospital’s basement from a burst pipe and wet seeping in from the city’s inundated streets. The kitchen was knocked out, as well as the pharmacy and the area where supplies such as linens and needles are stored.
But with knee- to waist-high water immediately outside, and flooding across the city, the hospital-wide evacuation became a new plan to move fewer than 80 of the sickest patients. And then, when only five ambulances could reach the bay outside the emergency department, it was significantly reduced again. In the end, only three vehicles made their destinations of hospitals up to 150 miles away; the two others had to turn back.
Ben Taub was among some 20 of about 110 hospitals in Houston and nearby counties that removed a portion or all of their patients — 1,500 people, including those in nursing homes and other facilities — as floods from Harvey continued Wednesday to ravage Southeast Texas.
Many of the other facilities canceled elective surgeries and any other appointments that could wait.
The storm “challenged every plan we’ve written, every resource, every piece of inventory. I mean, we’ve run out of wheelchairs,” said Darrell Pile, chief executive of the Southeast Texas Regional Advisory Council, who oversees preparations for and management of medical crises for the 25-county region. “I mean it just was unimaginable.”
At Memorial Hermann Sugar Land Hospital just southwest of Houston, chief executive Greg Haralson said…