Austin: Hospitals Without Water or Heat

By Ed Dalton

Several hospitals in the Austin area lost critical water pressure Tuesday evening and in subsequent days, resulting in a loss of heat due to water-powered boilers. Patients have been unable to flush toilets and lack drinking water during a city wide boil order. St. David’s South Austin Medical Center and Ascension Seton hospital are both affected. Dell’s Children Hospital also experienced the same critical failures, with staff forced to remove human waste with bags directly from toilets.

Transfer of patients has also been impeded by the storm. The hospitals were already spread thin due to the crumbling healthcare system and coronavirus pandemic—now loss of heat and water are ravaging the already critical conditions. The hospitals have ordered their overworked and underpaid nurses to stay on staff during the crisis. They have begun discharging some patients to homes which lack electricity and heat.

The city of Austin has yet to respond to the situation in any meaningful way, leaving hospital staff attempting to find portable toilets. Drinking water reserves are now being used to wash hands during essential sanitary procedures. This is all at a time when hospital staffs are pushed to the limit and lacking PPE.

The water issues in Austin are mainly due to power shut offs at Austin’s major water treatment plant, and not due to technical failure or frozen pipes. The suffering of the people can only be attributed to the miserable mismanagement on the part of powerful capitalists, as well as their inept and callous politicians.

The ruling class media coverage of the water shut-offs at area hospitals has systematically neglected to mention the burden already placed on medical professionals and the coronavirus pandemic. Further loss of sanitation at hospitals can only mean an increase in viral spread and a decrease in available beds. The system is teaching those forced to live under it a practical lesson in the need to completely overthrow it and replace it with something better.

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