An intense, late-season outbreak of the flu has put the number of patients treated at Henry Mayo Newhall Hospital at about 25 percent higher than normal levels, and health officials have plans in place if the increased influx keeps up.
The uptick is significant because, like most hospitals during the winter season, Henry Mayo regularly operates at close to capacity this time of year, said Patrick Moody, spokesman for Henry Mayo Newhall Hospital. (The hospital currently has construction underway for a $151 million patient tower expected to provide about 142 additional beds.)
A regular winter day brings in about 200 patients to the hospital’s emergency room; but the numbers in the last few days are closer to an average of about 250, he said.
“We are seeing significant volumes,” Moody said, “but we are managing them.”
Last week, the contingency plan included setting up patients with less severe health care needs at a room in the hospital known previously as the doctor’s dining room; he added that it was not in the hospital’s cafeteria and had not been used as a dining room for some time. However, he said Monday the hospital is no longer using that as a backup, and has created a new alternative plan if the patient trend continues.
If the numbers continue to rise, the hospital has plans to create a triage area using a large white tent near the entrance to the hospital’s emergency room. Triage care is the process of evaluating patients based on their immediate medical needs for situations in which resources are limited.
The increased strain on local medical resources has come from particularly virulent forms of influenza A and influenza B — known to the layman as, “the flu” — and the fact that the strands are hitting communities across the country longer and harder than usual, according to Dr. Darrin Privett of Henry Mayo’s emergency room.
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Dr. Privett shared the following advice for those debating whether they should seek medical care from a professional as opposed to trying to beat the illness at home with over-the-counter medicines.
A patient should go to the emergency room if: they’re having a significant amount of respiratory distress; their neurologic system feels compromised, i.e. feeling really weak, really dizzy, ultra lethargic, or even vomiting; the person is extremely dehydrated and needs more emergent interventions.
“We have had a large influx of patients,” Moody added. “We’re able to treat all of our patients.”