Tropical Storm Harvey has flooded the roads in and around MD Anderson’s primary Houston hospital, leaving one of the world’s foremost cancer centers unable to see patients for appointments or previously scheduled treatments until Thursday at the earliest.
The cancer hospital issued a statement Tuesday saying the main building and several MD Anderson satellites around Houston will remain closed to appointments through Wednesday, as emergency crews work to restore operations and wait for the flood waters to recede.
Pictures posted on Twitter show muddy water filling a parking garage in the facility and seeping into lobby areas of the Texas Medical Center facility.
The cancer hospital has not been evacuated and MD Anderson administrators said they have maintained continuous care for patients staying in the hospital, even though much of the area around the hospital remains impassable.
— Ashish Kamat (@UroDocAsh) August 27, 2017
“High water conditions persist in the Texas Medical Center, and travel should not be attempted,” said Dr. Karen Lu, MD Anderson’s senior vice president and chief medical officer. “All leaks reported yesterday are under control, and patient care has not been impacted.”
Dr. Ashish Kamat, a urologic oncology surgeon at the hospital, said he and many other colleagues have not been able to return to work since the storm hit.
“The streets have opened up a little bit. We’re still not open for routine business and we’re not really encouraging patients to leave, even though some of them want to leave, unless they’re completely recovered,” Kamat said.
Kamat, who lives close to the hospital, snapped photos showing several feet of water covering the roads and parking areas around the medical complex, which sits along Brays Bayou.
MD Anderson has dealt with several severe weather events over its history, including Tropical Storm Allison in 2001, which also resulted in major flooding. The hospital upgraded its preparations following that storm, adding more than 25 floodgates, relocating electrical equipment, and installing submarine doors.
— kenna griffin (@kennalgriffin) August 27, 2017
MD Anderson also deploys so-called ride-out teams, or groups of doctors and nurses from critical specialities who can provide care for up to 650 patients in the hours and days after a storm hits. A spokeswoman said those teams were activated when Harvey swept through the area.
“Things are definitely calm and under control here,” said Dr. Andrew Rhim, an assistant professor of gastroenterology, who was working at the hospital on Monday. Though the lobby and other flooded areas are cordoned off, Rhim said, no patient areas have been affected. “The cafeteria is still open,” he added.
Rhim was able to make it to the hospital on Monday morning after some of the waters on the roads around the center receded. He and other staff members who lived close by arrived Monday morning to give the ride-out teams some relief — at the risk of possibly getting stranded at the hospital should floodwaters rise again. “Everyone knew to bring extra changes of clothes and water, food, and so on,” he said.
Taking shelter at work
The storm caused Brays Bayou to overflow into large sections of Houston, catching residents off guard by the extent of the flooding. Many were asleep when waters cascaded into their homes, forcing them to quickly evacuate to rooftops or into the deluged streets.
“My husband and I woke up to a foot of water in our apartment,” said Ron Gilmore, a public relations specialist at MD Anderson. “We grabbed a few clothes and our dogs and started walking out in waist-deep water.”
He said they were able to make the mile-long trek into the medical center complex and managed to get a hotel room at the Wyndham Hotel. “We lost our car and almost everything we have of course,” he said. “But we’re fine.”
Gilmore said others were in much more dire circumstances. “As we were walking, a woman came out and said, ‘Are you a doctor?’” he said. “We said no and she told us she had a neighbor going into labor. There was nothing we could do. She couldn’t reach 911.”