Los Angeles Area Hospitals Swamped by Flu!

Dec 17, 2003, 00:00 ET from Hospital Association of Southern California

    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
     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