Pentagon chief Lloyd Austin was admitted to critical care on Monday, February 12. Duties were handed over to deputy Kathleen Hicks.

US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin was admitted to a critical care ward with a bladder issue as he battles prostate cancer. He transferred his duties to his deputy on Sunday, the Pentagon said.

Deputy Secretary of Defense Kathleen Hicks “assumed the functions and duties” just before 5:00 PM (2200 GMT), Pentagon spokesman Pat Ryder said in a statement, adding that the White House and Congress had been informed.

Austin was “admitted into the critical care unit at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center for supportive care and close monitoring,” the Pentagon said in a later statement, citing his doctors.

The latest health scare came weeks after it was discovered that Austin, 70, had kept previous hospital stays secret and had not immediately informed US President Joe Biden of his cancer diagnosis, sparking criticism as the United States faces crises in the Middle East and Ukraine.

Austin effectively vanished from the public eye for treatment for prostate cancer in December and again in January after suffering complications from the procedure.

This time, the public was alerted around two hours after he was sent to the hospital on Sunday afternoon.

Austin “was transported by his security detail” to the hospital, Ryder said in the earlier statement.

Ryder noted initially that the defense chief brought along classified communications systems and would be retaining “the functions and duties of his office.”

However, the announcement that Hicks would instead be taking over came just a few hours later.

“At this time, it is not clear how long Secretary Austin will remain hospitalized,” said the latest statement by Dr. John Maddox and Dr. Gregory Chesnut of the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Maryland.

“The current bladder issue is not expected to change his anticipated full recovery. His cancer prognosis remains excellent.”

With AFP