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Austin Prepares To Take In Patients If Harvey Forces Hospitals To Close

Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon
Brackenridge Hospital, which closed its doors in May, could be used as a "super shelter" to provide basic medical care and shelter if hospitals are forced to close because of Harvey.

Update – According to a spokesperson for Central Health, the Brackenridge Campus—the former Brackenridge Hospital—is not being considered as a potential emergency shelter anymore.

“The City of Austin approached us about using the Central Health Brackenridge Campus as an emergency shelter, and we were actively exploring how to make that happen,” Ivan Dávila, a spokesperson for Central Health says. “Yesterday, the city told us they had other options and wouldn’t need this location.”

Original post: More hospitals on or near the Gulf Coast could be closing in the coming days as rain continues to fall and floodwaters continue to rise in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey.

“We're anticipating that they are likely going to want to start doing some kind of evacuation soon and if they don’t, that’s fine as long as their people are safe – but if they do, we want to be ready,” said Dr. Christopher Ziebell, the medical director at the ER in Ascension’s Dell Seton Medical Center at the University of Texas.

Ziebell, who has dealt with the aftermath of several hurricanes, has been mapping out plans for various scenarios here.

He said one thing that’s in the works is getting Dell Seton to possibly create what he calls a "super shelter." That would allow it to provide basic medical care and shelter to lots of people all in one place.

Ziebell said if he needs to do that, there happens to be a perfect location.

“The beauty of this particular episode and the timing of it is that we have a whole hospital across the street that we just moved out of a couple weeks ago that's still sitting there,” he said. “So we have some capacity that we can leverage. I have got a team over there today that’s taking inventory of what’s still there.”

The former Brackenridge Hospital has not been demolished yet. So, Ziebell said it’s there if it's needed.

For now, though, the city is dealing with medical needs from people who have already evacuated to Austin.

Jen Samp, a spokesperson at Austin’s Emergency Operations Center, said evacuees are getting screened as they come in to shelters in Austin.

“And if their criteria meet the needs to go to a hospital, we have hospitals on standby to receive these evacuees or medical shelters,” she said. “We also have basic first aid at the shelters, and we can also provide transportation to and from these hospitals.”

For people who don’t need to go to the hospital, mobile clinics are helping out at the shelters. Samp said they are doing what they can to help people for as long as they need it.

“We're helping to meet the needs short term and long term,” she said. “From having assistance to having people on standby to help people find their insurance information to short-term needs as far as basic first-aid assistance.”

So far, Dell Seton has taken in roughly 70 people, including seven newborns in intensive care, hospital officials said. About half are transfers from evacuated hospitals; the other half are people who were already seeking shelter here. 

Ashley Lopez covers politics and health care. Got a tip? Email her at Follow her on Twitter @AshLopezRadio.
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