Dialysis clinics in Texas recovering from winter storm, but water supplies remain limited
Dialysis providers are recovering from power blackouts and winter storms that pummeled Texas last week, but limited access to clean water needed to perform treatments have forced disaster teams to find alternative suppliers.
“We have experience in the region from responding to major hurricanes and other natural disasters,” Bob Loeper, vice president for Operations Support and Business Continuity/Disaster Response for Fresenius Medical Care North America, told Healio Nephrology. “However, we ran into many obstacles that we have not encountered previously such as widespread low to no water pressure and rolling blackouts.”
On Feb. 20, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality said 1,445 public water systems faced disruptions in service due to the weather, many of these leading to boil water notices.
The storm “was a real health crisis on top of all the other things going on right now,” Tiffany Jones, CEO of the Texas Kidney Foundation, said in an interview with news station CBS KENS 5 last week. “We never thought that weather could impact us this way,” she said.
Loeper said FMCNA was able to “mobilize resources, including water trucks, additional generators and other emergency supplies,” he told Healio Nephrology. “We activated our disaster response team ahead of the extreme weather ... While almost half of our Texas centers were initially impacted in some way from the storm, we are in a much better position at this point and have been able to get service up and running to almost all locations.
“Additionally, we are providing resources, including fuel and generators, to our employees so they can be ready to help treat our patients.”
Water systems across the state were disabled when they lost power at facilities to treat the water or pump treated water into distribution systems. Water main breaks and mechanical failures also occurred, along with frozen or broken water lines, the commission said.
Joe Turk, president of Home and Critical Care Therapies at FMCNA, said the company sent a number of NxStage System One portable dialysis machines and supplies to support local hospitals that lost water pressure. “Because the NxStage System One performs treatments with bagged dialysate, hospitals are able to continue life-sustaining dialysis when there is no access to water, which is critical for disaster preparedness and response,” Turk said. “In one case, our team overcame tremendous weather obstacles to emergently deliver equipment and supplies to Houston in order to treat dozens of patients."
In response to the storm, the American Kidney Fund has activated its Disaster Relief Program to provide emergency funds to help kidney patients affected by the winter storm.
“This is an extreme crisis for people with kidney failure in Texas,” LaVarne A. Burton, AKF president and CEO, said in a press release. “We are hearing from patients that they have been going without dialysis due to the severity of the storm and the power outages.
“Finding water is a huge issue for many. Patients whose homes are freezing are being forced to find alternative shelter. Patients who must adhere to the very strict renal diet have lost their foods because of power outages. Home hemodialysis patients who do not have an alternative power source or access to water are unable to perform their treatments.”
The AKF website provides emergency preparedness information for patients on dialysis at KidneyFund.org/disaster-prep.