Austin hospitals and clinics follow emergency plans, ship in thousands of gallons of water during advisory

St. David's Healthcare had several water trucks bring drinkable water from Central Texas, Dallas and Houston to its hospital locations in Austin.

St. David's Healthcare had several water trucks bring drinkable water from Central Texas, Dallas and Houston to its hospital locations in Austin.

Image description
IMG_7102
Area hospitals and health clinics are adapting practices to remain in full operation during a citywide boil water advisory issued Oct. 22.

Several trucks, both water tank-style vehicles and 18 wheelers full of pallets of bottled water, have arrived at several St. David’s Healthcare hospitals from Central Texas, Dallas and Houston, Dr. Ken Mitchell, Chief Medical Officer of St. David’s Healthcare said at a press conference the hospital system hosted Oct. 23.

“Each patient needs about 3 gallons, each staff member needs 1 gallon,” Mitchell said. “When you put that across our entire medical system, we needed about 5,000 gallons of additional drinkable water on a daily basis to continue normal or near-normal operations across our health system.”

The water boil notice was issued as a precaution to prevent residents from falling ill from parasites that could be present in the increased silt in Austin’s water supply, however no parasite have been found present yet, according to city officials. Symptoms of an illness caused by parasites include gastrointestinal issues such as vomiting, diarrhea, nausea and in some cases, a low fever, Mitchell said.

Procedures in place


Hospital systems have emergency protocols in place ahead of time as well as extra water supply on hand, said Andy Davis, Chief Operating Officer for Ascension, Texas, which includes the Seton hospital network.

“We always have emergency procedures in place for times when you may have a shortage of water for other types of disaster planning from a water conservation standpoint,” Davis said.

Despite having emergency plans in place in case of a water shortage including having several days worth of drinkable water available at all times, adapting certain procedures to accommodate a limited water supply presents a challenge for hospital leaders, Mitchell said.

“It’s one thing to secure a few flights of water to get you through this period of time which may now be up to 10 to 14 days,” Mitchell said. “It’s a really big undertaking to ensure that we can continue normal or near-normal operations during this type of water boil warning.”

Davis said Seton’s hospital network in Austin was able to gain assistance from its national network of hospitals to maintain its supply of clean water.

“Based on the information that we have today in terms of water quality, we can sustain these procedures as long as resources are available, through national resources, much longer than 10 to 14 days”

Some of the practices that had to be adapted because of the water boil advisory were bathing, food preparation and sterilization of certain medical instruments, Mitchell said.

St. David’s closed its ambulatory surgery centers on Monday, which are surgery centers that operate off-site from hospitals and canceled elective surgeries and procedures until noon. Mitchell said the ambulatory centers are expected to reopen Wednesday.

Tracking illnesses


As of Oct. 23, Seton and St. David's both did not report any abnormal spikes in patients seeking care for gastrointestinal issues. Austin Regional Clinic, Baylor Scott & White and Central Health also reported no gastrointestinal illness trends among patients in Austin clinics.

Despite little forewarning from city and county health officials, Mitchell said St. David’s was informed that the advisory was being issued as a precautionary measure.

“They had not actually identified any unusual bacteria or parasites in the water and that the water boil notice was being implemented out of precaution,” Mitchell said.

Area health clinics run by Austin Regional Clinic, Baylor Scott & White and Central Health reported operating normally with bottled water available at clinic locations.

Mitchell said anyone experiencing gastrointestinal illness symptoms should seek medical care quickly.

“If you develop that type of illness during this period of time, don't waste time, see your physician, seek out medical care and let your healthcare provider determine if you need to be treated a with antibiotics,” he said.


MOST RECENT

Renderings show plans for a transit station as part of Capital Metro's Project Connect. (Rendering courtesy Capital Metro)
Changes to Project Connect plan add $60 million to local cost estimate

Capital Metro Board Chair Wade Cooper called the upcoming June 10 meeting to finalize the technical aspects of the plan "one of the most consequential votes this board has taken in its history."

A photo of two women walking on a trail with a quote from the story
Traditional summer outings may look different in Southwest Austin under COVID-19 guidelines to promote health, safety

Frome trails and parks to camps and water parks, here is what to expect from summer activities and destinations this season.

texas-reopening
LIST: What is open, closed in Texas and how businesses can operate

Texas openings are staggered with different opening dates and operating limits.

Lost Creek Limited District will begin charging a fee to enter at its entrance to the Barton Creek greenbelt. (Amy Rae Dadamo/Community Impact Newspaper)
Lost Creek board explains decision to charge fee for access to its entrance at Barton Creek greenbelt

Following a May 13 meeting during which Lost Creek Limited District officials voted unanimously to begin charging nonresidents to access the greenbelt from the Barton Creek low water crossing entrance point, board members have put out information further explaining their decision.

On a nearly empty South Congress Avenue, a resident plays guitar March 25. (Christopher Neely/Community Impact Newspaper)
Unemployment rate in Travis County shoots to 12.4% in April; Austin metro jumps to 12.2%

The local unemployment rate remains below the statewide and national rates.

All patients, residents and staff at Texas' 23 state hospitals and supported living centers are to be tested for coronavirus. (Courtesy Adobe Stock)
Texas to test all state hospitals, supported living centers for COVID-19

All patients, residents and staff at Texas' 23 state hospitals and supported living centers will be tested for coronavirus regardless of symptoms or exposure.

Hays County Judge Ruben Becerra is encouraging testing for residents. (Joe Warner/Community Impact Newspaper)
MAY 23 ROUNDUP: Top stories from this week in Central Texas

Read the most popular stories from the past week of Community Impact Newspaper's coverage of Central Texas.

Mercer Street is home to the Dripping Springs business sector. (Nicholas Cicale/Community Impact Newspaper)
Dripping Springs forms committee to evaluate relief options for businesses impacted by COVID-19

The committee will create a new disaster-relief program for Dripping Springs businesses.

A photo of a "for sale" sign
Southwest Austin housing market sees significant year-over-year decrease in April

The Austin Board of Realtors released a report showing a sharp change in home sales from recent months.

Travis County has now had 2,712 total coronavirus cases reported as of May 21. (Nicholas Cicale/Community Impact Newspaper)
New coronavirus death brings Travis County total to 83

Travis County has now had 2,712 total coronavirus cases reported as of May 21.

A photo of a pink piggy bank sitting on top of three stacked books, in front of a green wall
Dripping Springs ISD financial officer says coronavirus has resulted in $600,000 loss

The district was hit most significantly with revenue losses from the district's child nutrition program.

In a letter addressed to state agencies and higher education institutions, Gov. Greg Abbott, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and House Speaker Dennis Bonnen said the reduced budget comes in preparation to the coronavirus pandemic’s impact on state finances expected to be felt in the coming months. (Courtesy Fotolia)
Budget cuts slated for Texas state agencies, higher education institutions in 2020-21 biennium

Texas state agencies and institutions of higher education to expect a 5% reduction in budget plans for the 2020-21 biennium as part of the state's response to the economic ramifications of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.