- The Washington Times - Monday, August 28, 2017

Texas Medical Center in Houston was able to open access points to the medical complex Monday afternoon but said that the status is subject to change depending on continued rain fall, the hospital announced on Twitter.

“As of now, medical center is #accessible through major access points. Status subject to change contingent on rainfall. #Harvey,” the world’s largest medical complex announced through its Twitter account.

Flood gates put in around the massive medical facility have kept out devastating flood waters that engulfed large parts of southeast Texas but had the adverse effect of cutting the hospital off from people trying to access it as rising flood waters created a moat around the complex.

Dr. Mary L. Brandt, a pediatric surgeon with Texas Children’s Hospital, part of the complex, said they expect more medical transfers as flood waters recede.

“We’ve been isolated, we have a moat around us, it’s flooded to get into our hospital,” she said in a phone interview with the Washington Times.

Along with her colleagues, Dr. Brandt has been sheltered in place at the hospital since this weekend, part of the hospital’s emergency preparedness plan.

In addition to a full staff of doctors and nurses, mid-level providers, kitchen staff, and cleaning crews have stayed at the hospital since Saturday. Dr. Brandt says they’ve performed at least 16 surgeries over the weekend, from patients already in the hospital to those arriving through the emergency room.

Dr. Brandt says that more medical transfers are expected to arrive as the waters recede.

Some patients and their families are unable to return to their homes because they’ve already flooded and hospital staff are faced with the challenge of where to send them, but that a spirit of camaraderie and duty to help others is getting them through.

“We’ve been through this before,” she said, “we really truly have wonderful people that helped plan to make sure hospitals had generators, adequate food and personnel. We’re really doing well.”

“This is far worse than Alison,” Dr. Brandt said, referring to the 2001 tropical storm that brought severe flooding to Houston and prompted changes in emergency preparedness protocols. There was about 40 inches of rain at its peak during that storm, which lasted around 15 days.

Harvey, which was downgraded from a category four hurricane to a tropical storm Saturday, is expected to bring about 50 inches of rain and will continue to affect southeast Texas at least until Wednesday or Thursday. Billions of dollars worth of aid is expected to be required to address the needs of at least 500,000 people.

On Sunday, Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price declared a public health emergency in Texas, diverting additional resources to ease the burden of emergency responders and other aid organizations.

HHS has 500 personnel on the ground in Texas and 1,000 more on alert to help in disaster relief and has sent 53,000 pounds of medical equipment and supplies to be delivered to the most affected areas. The federal agency is also coordinating nation-wide blood donations to supplement the supply and make up for cancelled blood drives in the areas affected by Harvey.

In addition, at least 182 patients were evacuated by 70 ambulances from three hospitals in Victoria, Texas with help an emergency medical service contracted by the HHS.

The Red Cross likewise said it had enough food and and shelter supplies for 28,000 people and were planning on delivery supplies for 22,000 more people.

Red Cross Vice President for Disaster Operations and Logistics Brad Kieserman told NPR that between 20,000 and 30,000 people are expected to seek shelter from the storm.

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