Harvey: Houston flooding pushes hospitals to act – USA TODAY

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Houston’s unprecedented rainfall on Sunday pushed area medical facilities to take precautions — including, in some cases, evacuations — in a bid to protect patients.

Texas Medical Center early Sunday began closing its massive “submarine” doors, designed to seal off lower floors — Texas Children’s Hospital, as well as Memorial Hermann-Texas Medical Center and TIRR Memorial Hermann Hospital, deployed the doors, a spokeswoman told the Houston Chronicle.

The system is part of a safety upgrade installed after Tropical Storm Allison devastated the medical campus in 2001, the Chronicle reported. That storm drowned tens of thousands of laboratory animals and forced patient evacuations. Decades of medical research were lost as well.

Unrelenting rain is forecast well into the week in Houston and surrounding areas, with the Texas Gulf Coast bracing for days of catastrophic flooding. The National Weather Service on Sunday said some areas could be slammed with an “unprecedented” 50 inches of rain by week’s end.

More: 3,000 Guard troops activated as ‘unprecedented’ flooding swamps Houston from Harvey

More: Federal government plans years-long recovery effort in states hit by Harvey

In a statement, the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center said inpatient care areas remained open Sunday, but that outpatient services were canceled through Monday and possibly longer. A few areas of the hospital saw leaks and took on water, but patients weren’t affected, the hospital said.

Anderson’s Karen Lu, M.D., said patients were being “safely cared for by MD Anderson’s Ride-Out Team,” which remained through the storm. “We continue to be focused and remain committed to making sure our patients get the best possible care under these difficult circumstances,” Lu said.

Ben Taub Hospital said flooding in basement areas had left it with only a two-day supply of dry food, the Chroniclereported. The hospital on Sunday asked for ambulance buses to help evacuate patients. Ben Taub listed about 360 patients, including 17 or 18 on life support, spokesman Bryan McLeod told the Chronicle. He said water at the hospital was “waist-high.”

One of just two comprehensive, level 1 trauma centers in Houston, Ben Taub will likely need several days for the evacuation effort, McLeod told KTRK-TV.

He said the hospital’s electrical service hadn’t been disrupted, but that with another round of heavy rainfall, “this could change.”

Bayshore Medical Center on Sunday also said it had decided to begin evacuating its 196 patients to area hospitals.

Follow Greg Toppo on Twitter: @gtoppo

 

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