Increase in flu cases causing overcrowded emergency rooms

Maryland hospitals emergency departments are experiencing a major increase in the number of patients, the Maryland Institute for Emergency Medical Services Systems (MIEMSS) announced Thursday.

We have learned that local hospitals are feeling the pressure as well, thanks to an increase in the number of patients in the previous three weeks.

Locally we are not immune, as Atlantic General and PRMC say they are seeing an influx of patients.

"This is a more severe year than it has been over the past four to five years," says Harry Emmerich, emergency medicine attendant at Atlantic General.  "We're seeing a lot of patients that are a lot sicker, have a lot higher fevers, and ultimately end up getting other conditions associated with the flu that are causing the increased hospitalizations."

"I wouldn't say we're overwhelmed, we have not had any type of crisis mode," said Dr. Clark Willis with PRMC.  "Even though we see more flu, and there has been a GI bug going around, and it certainly contributes to some of the volume and it doesn't help with the wait to get seen, it has not been a significant number of the patients we've been seeing currently."

The increased number of patients the last three weeks have made it tough on hospitals.

"It makes it very difficult because we only have a finite number of beds in the hospital.  When we have to admit some of these flu patients then it's taking up beds from other of the more chronic illnesses that we see," said Emmerich.

The CDC says that only very sick people should go to the emergency room.  And those who tend to patients daily agree, adding that if you feel the symptoms coming on, there are other places to go and those places may help more than the ER.

"We're really advising people to see their family doctors, do a lot of home therapies for a lot of the aches and pains and fevers associated with the flu, but certainly if they need more advanced care come see us here in the emergency department," said Emmerich.

PRMC reports 142 cases of flu so far this season compared to 289 last year.  Atlantic General reports 184 flu cases so far this season.

Health officials want to remind the public that you can still get your flu shots if you haven't already.

Categories: Local News, Maryland