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The holiday season is over and flu season is in full swing. Experts from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say things may get worse before they get better due to an imperfect vaccine and exceptionally cold weather. And this means that hospitals from California to Maine are dealing with surging EDs—leading to challenges with everything from long wait times to overnight holds to inpatient admission delays.
In fact, some health systems are seeing a 16% increase in ED visits and almost a 40% increase in acuity [according to Brittany Lindsey, Director of Patient Flow, UAB Hospital, Birmingham, AL]. "We have setup our PACUs as additional ICUs, we are looking at staffing our EP cardiology unit as a flu unit, we are using our Post Recovery for our Heart and Vascular Center as a 23 hour bedded outpatient location, and certain floors of our women’s hospital have been converted to regular acute care for all genders," according to Lindsey.
While every disaster - and every health system - is certainly unique, there are some common themes that emerge for planning and managing through such pressures.
For health systems Command Centers [centralized operations], real-time communication and visibility is essential to ensuring the continued smooth placement of patients:
The University of Minnesota’s Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy is a good resource to turn to for the latest information on the current outbreak, as is The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention - on providing detailed information on steps to minimize potential exposure before and during visits to healthcare facilities, how to monitor and manage ill employees, precautions that should be implemented, and working with environmental services on effective cleaning and disinfection procedures.
And one final—and extremely important—tip. Even though flu season is already bearing down in a big way, it’s still not too late to get a flu shot. Encourage your staff [and all other friends, colleagues and relatives!] to take this simple, preventive step.