Wait caused by winter storm in San Antonio puts dialysis patients at risk

STRAC: 90% of dialysis centers now open the region

SAN ANTONIO – Last week’s winter storm in San Antonio forced dialysis patients to play a dangerous waiting game, putting them at risk.

Not only were many unable to travel roads coated by ice, but dialysis centers had to contend with power issues and low water pressure.

However, STRAC, the Southwest Texas Regional Advisory Council, reports 63 of 70 dialysis centers in its region, including San Antonio, are now open as of Friday.

Eric Epley, its executive director, said STRAC’s role has been providing “generators and water tankers, like we’ve been doing with hospitals.”

Fresenius Kidney Care also had its own emergency response, sending convoys of those generators and water tankers to its center.

Since EMS ambulances don’t handle dialysis transports like private ambulances, Joe Arrington, spokesman for the San Antonio Fire Department, said they can call 311 that can also provide toll free numbers for the various dialysis centers to set up appointments.

For instance, the toll free number for Fresenius is 1-800-626-1297. DaVita is 1-800-400-8331.

However, Arrington stressed 911 is only for a life-threatening emergency.

Epley said the dialysis centers overall have been doing a good job calling their patients to set up appointments as soon as possible.

For now, many patients only undergo two hours of dialysis.

Dr. Shweta Bansal, a nephrologist at UT Health San Antonio said, “Usually, you do four hours, but here, we were doing two hours because the goal was not to provide the best care to the patient. The goal was to provide enough care that they survive,” by reducing the toxins, fluids and potassium in the body.”

About the Authors:

Jessie Degollado has been with KSAT since 1984. She is a general assignments reporter who covers a wide variety of stories. Raised in Laredo and as an anchor/reporter at KRGV in the Rio Grande Valley, Jessie is especially familiar with border and immigration issues. In 2007, Jessie also was inducted into the San Antonio Women's Hall of Fame.

Bill Caldera has been at KSAT since 2003. He covers a wide range of stories including breaking news, weather, general assignments and sports.