How Houston hospitals are handling Hurricane Harvey

With 50 inches of rainfall expected in parts of Houston before the storms of Hurricane Harvey move out, medical facilities in the nation’s fourth-largest city have taken extra precautions—and in some cases, decided to evacuate patients and staff.

Several hospitals are relying on a safety upgrade made after a 2001 storm, deploying what the Houston Chronicle called “submarine” doors which are meant to seal off lower floors from flooding. Those have been activated at the Texas Medical Center (TMC).

While the doors have kept the center running for patients already admitted with workers designated as part of “Ride-Out teams,” flooded roads have cut off ambulances from reaching patients or allowing patients to come to the center.

“I’ve never heard so few sirens as I have in the last few days, which is upsetting,” TMC President and CEO William McKeon, told the New York Times. “We can be dry and open but if you can’t deliver patients to the medical center, that’s our biggest concern.”

Other facilities, however, haven’t been able to stay in operation. In nearby Pasadena, Texas, 196 patients are being evacuated from Bayshore Medical Center and emergency room services have been suspended.

Ben Taub Hospital, a level 1 trauma center also located within the TMC, did see its basement flooded according to Buzzfeed, affecting power to the hospital as well as pharmaceutical and food supplies. It had to be evacuated beginning Sunday, starting with about 18 patients who were on ventilators. Water was waist-high in some areas of the hospital, according to a spokesperson.

The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center is one facility which has experienced some flooding but which remained open for inpatient services, though outpatient care appointments have been canceled for the time being. A few parts of the hospital have taken on water but patients haven’t been affected.

“We continue to be focused and remain committed to making sure our patients get the best possible care under these difficult circumstances,” Karen Lu, MD, told USA Today.