LOS ANGELES, Dec. 17 /PRNewswire/ -- Patients presenting with flu-like symptoms have inundated hospital emergency departments throughout Los Angeles County within the past several days, according to the Hospital Association of Southern California. The surge in patient volume has forced many hospitals to temporarily close to ambulance traffic in order to meet the increase demand for emergency services. The Los Angeles County Emergency Medical Services Agency, which tracks emergency department saturation, indicates that the rate emergency departments have been forced to close to ambulance traffic is up sixteen percent from this time last year. Even more alarming is that in the first 15 days of December hospital emergency departments have been closed to ambulance traffic more than they were in the entire month of November. Hospitals are reporting, in some instances, twice the normal volume of patients. "We are so overcrowded anyway," said Dr. S. Daniel Higgins, president-elect of the Los Angeles County Medical Assn. and head of the emergency department at St. Francis Medical Center. "Now we have a bad flu season. I worked all weekend, and patients were leaving in droves before they could be treated. The impact is severe." Physicians said patients can take steps to both get the treatment they need and avoid long waits in the emergency room. "If you have your own physician, please try to see her first," said Dr. Marcy Zwelling-Aamot, president of the Los Angeles County Medical Assn. and an internist. Patients should also try neighborhood clinics and other non-emergency facilities. "And if you are becoming ill, try to get it taken care of by a physician or clinic before the weekend, when ERs are more crowded with emergencies related to injuries and illnesses unrelated to influenza," she said. "Going to the emergency department is often a poor choice for people who are not severely ill because they probably will face long waits as patients with more severe illnesses or injuries are treated first." "And, most importantly, I would never discourage patients from going to an emergency department if they truly feel they have an emergency," Zwelling added. The Hospital Association of Southern California is a trade group representing approximately 190 hospitals serving Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino, Santa Barbara and Ventura Counties.
SOURCE Hospital Association of Southern California