SHREVEPORT, La. (KTAL/KMSS) – The Shreveport Fire Department is working to help local hospitals keep the heat on as record-low temperatures and water pressure issues persist city-wide thanks to severe winter weather in the region.
City fire trucks have been shuttling water to Willis Knighton North and South, as well as Oschner LSU Health Medical Center and St. Mary Medical Center to keep their boilers going, which heat the hospitals. The water is also needed to flush toilets.
A spokesperson for Willis-Knighton said they have had to cancel all non-emergency procedures, imaging services and surgeries at its hospitals and clinics due to having low to no water pressure.
Both Ochsner LSU Health hospitals in Shreveport on Kings Highway and the St. Mary Medical Center say they have limited city water and are practicing mitigation measures to conserve water and heat.
“We are working with multiple sources to continue providing trucks of potable and non-potable water, as well as ensuring we have several days of bottled water on hand for our staff and patients,” the hospital said in a statement, adding, “While this storm presents challenges, the collaboration and dedication of our team has been outstanding. Earlier this week, staff began staying onsite to ensure continued care despite transportation barriers. Last night, approximately 170 of our patient care team stayed overnight at our hospitals.”
The winter storm is affecting other hospital operations in other ways, including limited staffing. Willis Knighton is asking the public not to come to the ER unless they have an immediate life-threatening condition in order to free up staff to handle patients with very serious conditions.
Although local pharmacies are closed, WK Knighton says hospital pharmacies cannot fill prescriptions for walk-in patients and they ask the public to limit phone calls to the hospitals because phone equipment damage and low staffing affect their ability to handle large call volumes.
The fire department is also working to borrow tanker trucks from other areas of the state because it does not have any of its own since it relies on fire hydrants to fight fires. According to SFD spokesman Clarence Reece, the State Fire Marshal put out a statewide call for tankers from rural fire departments, which rely on them because there are fewer fire hydrants in rural areas. As of late Wednesday afternoon, the Louisiana Office of the State Fire Marshal said ten tankers were on their way to Shreveport from fire departments all over the state, one as far as St. Tammany Parish.
Reece said the city has requested five tankers, which can carry up three to six-thousand gallons of water. Caddo Fire District 1 in Blanchard has offered up a tanker, and Reece said efforts are under way to coordinate additional tankers from others who have offered them up on loan.
Shreveport is not alone in dealing with winter weather water woes. Bossier City has also issued a city-wide boil advisory, along with customers of the Natchitoches Water Distribution System and the Town of Vivian Water System.
Customers of Pine Hill Waterworks District 8 have been told to expect to be without water for several days because of frozen water lines.