The Texas Medical Center (TMC) began bracing for Hurricane Harvey long before it slammed into the Texas Gulf Coast on Friday evening, tearing through the Rockport area as a Category 4 hurricane with winds as high as 130 miles per hour.
“I’ve been letting people know that all the hospitals and emergency rooms are operational, and have been all along,” said William McKeon, CEO and president of the Texas Medical Center.
Most institutions, however, have scaled back elective and non-emergency services, so patients should contact their care providers directly to confirm hours of operation and which specific services are available.
In 2001, Tropical Storm Allison caused massive structural damage at the TMC, forcing evacuations and destroying years of medical research. The TMC, which is made up of 59 institutions—including 23 hospitals—underwent a massive upgrade to avoid these sorts of problems during future storms.
“Since Allison, flood mitigation improvements, including a flood gate network, aboveground electrical vaults and generators and water pump systems, have been installed within the Texas Medical Center to ensure the highest level of flood protection for our critical infrastructure,” said Shawn W. Cloonan, chief operating officer and EVP of the Texas Medical Center.
Early on Sunday, flood gates across the medical center were closed to prevent water from reaching the lower floors of institutions including The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston, Texas Children’s Hospital, Memorial Hermann-Texas Medical Center and TIRR Memorial Hermann Hospital.
Although Harvey has been downgraded to a tropical storm, it has wreaked epic destruction and catastrophic flooding in the Houston area for four days with little abatement. In some areas, meteorologists are predicting as much as 50 inches of rainfall by the end of the week.
But as of Tuesday afternoon, all clinical care facilities at the TMC were open and operable, except for Ben Taub Hospital, which continued to care for existing patients but was no longer accepting new patients. Ben Taub also spoke with other area hospitals about evacuating some of its most critical patients if necessary. Life Flight at Memorial Hermann Hospital and helipads at other institutions are open and operable when winds levels permit.
Getting around the medical center, as of Tuesday afternoon, was possible through major points of access, including Holcombe Blvd., Fannin St., Main St., Almeda Rd., Braeswood Blvd., Old Spanish Trail, and on private TMC roads. Access is, of course, subject to change based on rainfall and flooding, so anyone traveling in the area should check hurricane alerts on www.tmc.edu for updated information.
In addition, all ground and above-level TMC garages are open and accessible, with the exception of Garage 7.
Individual institutions are monitoring water levels and accessibility and making decisions about surgeries and appointments on an as-needed basis. Many are scaling back elective and non-emergency services.
The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, for example, will be closed for all patient appointments and surgeries through Wednesday.
All Methodist Hospital locations are open to patients, but some elective procedures have been cancelled.
Texas Children’s Hospital is continuing normal inpatient operations as of Tuesday, but all clinics are closed and all outpatient procedures are canceled at the three Texas Children’s Hospital campuses through Wednesday, including the Texas Medical Center campus, West Campus and The Woodlands. All Texas Children’s Health Centers, as well as community Maternal-Fetal Medicine and OB/GYN clinics are closed through Wednesday. The Centers for Children and Women are closed through Wednesday. In addition, all Texas Children’s Pediatrics practices and Texas Children’s Urgent Care locations are closed Tuesday.
Baylor College of Medicine and its clinics are closed through Tuesday.
All Harris Health System ambulatory clinics and pharmacy locations will remain closed through Wednesday.
The Texas Medical Center encourages all patients, family members and health care professionals to use caution and avoid high water on the roadways.
The rain and wind continue, yet hospitals and emergency rooms at the TMC are operational.
As McKeon told the New York Times on Sunday evening: “With one of the most devastating hurricanes in Texas, I’m looking out my window now, all the lights are on, the largest medical city in the world is operating today, that’s a feat of engineering that is really amazing.”
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