Houston-area healthcare workers see surge in patients during winter storm

Area healthcare workers are being stretched thin as the number of people needing ambulances and hospital rooms spike.

"There’s been about a month’s worth of calls that we’ve received over the last three and a half days," explains Spring Fire Department Chief Scott Seifert. 

The Spring Fire Department has had 400 calls for fire and EMS in three days. 

"Most of the fire calls are related to busted pipes, things like that. We’ve had space heater fires," explains Chief Seifert  "Since Monday morning, where we sit today, we’ve had 1200 responses that have resulted in 475 transports. For us that’s double our normal numbers," says Montgomery County Health District Chief of EMS James Campbell.

"The number of patients that we have in the hospital and in the emergency departments that are being admitted are increasing and that’s despite us canceling all of our elective procedures," explains Chief Medical Officer for Baylor and St Luke’s Medical Center Dr. Bradley Lembcke.  

How to tell if your food is safe to eat after power outages, how to stay hydrated without water

We know a lot of you are going through a rough time because of problems with the water supply, or maybe your water is turned off because of a busted pipe, but we’re here to help make sure your food is safe to eat if your power went out.

"The loss of power and water has put a lot of patients with chronic illnesses in difficult situations. So they’re coming into the hospitals to get care," says Memorial Hermann CEO David Callender.  Including a surge of dialysis patients. "The entire healthcare system within Texas is strained," adds Dr. Lembcke.

"We saw record numbers of calls for service and definitely had some challenges from winter-related conditions here on top of the existing pandemic," explains MCHD Medical Director Dr. Robert Dickson.  

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As more people get out and about on the ice a high number of Houstonians are being injured simply walking to their car.  

"We’re starting to see more hip fractures, falls, broken bones," says Dr. Lembcke.  "We’ve seen well over 100 patients with carbon monoxide poisoning," adds CEO Callender. "There’s an increase in motor vehicle crashes and cold weather-related exacerbations of chronic illness," says Chief Campbell. 

"And it’s hard to discharge people from the hospital. We can’t send those individuals home until we’re sure they have power, reliable power," explains Dr. Lembcke. Even as many hospitals also lost water and power, patients have continued getting care but there have been a number of fatalities.

Just like homes, hospitals are struggling without water and power

Power and water outages are causing a crisis at some clinics and hospitals.

"There have been deaths in the Houston area associated with hypothermia, also with lack of oxygen, certainly from carbon monoxide poisoning. So we’ve definitely seen deaths related to this event," Callender explains.  

"If you have an elderly person who has medical conditions, even in their own home if they lose power if it’s 45 degrees they can become severely hypothermic. All of the hospitals around implemented their ride-out teams. Teams that are working the next day if the weather is going to be bad we’ll have them sleep at the hospital," says Lembcke. 

"Our crews who are themselves having power outages and bursted pipes at home have been here since Sunday night. We’ve had a whole team that has never seen snow, driven on icy road conditions and we are fortunate we haven’t had any significant employee injuries. We haven’t had any major accidents in ambulances," says Campbell. "I’m in awe our healthcare system came through this with no injuries, able to take care all of our patients," says Dr. Dickson.