Defense Secretary Austin in critical care unit after hospital return

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Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin was admitted to the critical care unit at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center on Sunday after returning to the hospital with symptoms suggesting an "emergent bladder issue," according to the Pentagon.

Austin transferred his official duties to his deputy after arriving at the hospital, Pentagon press secretary Maj. Gen. Pat Ryder said in a statement.

"Tonight, after a series of tests and evaluations, the Secretary was admitted into the critical care unit at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center for supportive care and close monitoring," Austin's doctors said in a late Sunday statement.

It's not clear how long Austin will remain hospitalized, according to the statement from Dr. John Maddox, trauma medical director, and Dr. Gregory Chesnut, director of the Center for Prostate Disease Research of the Murtha Cancer Center at Walter Reed. However, the doctors said his bladder issue is not expected to change Austin's "anticipated full recovery" from prostate cancer, and his cancer prognosis remains "excellent."

An earlier statement from Ryder on Sunday indicated that Austin "was retaining the functions and duties of his office," but a subsequent statement said that Austin had transferred those functions and those duties to Deputy Defense Secretary Kathleen Hicks.

Both statements indicated that the Biden White House, members of Congress and Joint Chiefs Chair Gen. C.Q. Brown had been notified of Austin's latest health issue.

Austin was initially hospitalized at Walter Reed on Jan. 1 for complications from surgery he underwent in December for prostate cancer.

At the time Austin and his staff failed to notify other government leaders for several days that he had been hospitalized, including the White House. It took several more days for leaders, Congress and the public to learn that he had been diagnosed with cancer. “We did not handle this right. I did not handle this right.” Austin told reporters at the Pentagon on Feb. 1.

The notifications specified in Ryder's statement were meant to address those issues.

Austin was last released from the hospital Jan. 15.