‘No end in sight’ for hospitals as flu, RSV, COVID-19 cases pile up | Health-care

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URBANA — Respiratory illnesses are making so many people sick these days that Carle Foundation Hospital’s emergency department has passed its all-time record for the volume of patients coming in for treatment.

It’s mostly influenza, along with some COVID-19 and RSV cases, currently putting an extra strain on the hospital, Dr. Benjamin Davis, associate medical director of the emergency department, said Tuesday.

And, he said, “there’s no end in sight.”

“I think we’re probably seeing right now the effects of people gathering for Thanksgiving,” he said.

At normal times, Carle’s Urbana hospital averages 250 patients a day in its emergency department, Davis said.

On Nov. 28, the emergency department saw 353 patients — a record day — and from Nov. 27 through Dec. 3 the emergency department averaged about 300 patients a day, according to Carle spokeswoman Brittany Simon.

For Monday of this week, there were more than 300 patients seeking emergency treatment at the hospital, Davis said.

Because the hospital typically admits about a quarter of the patients who arrive for emergency care, a higher number of emergency department patients is having a snowball effect on the rest of the facility, he said.

“We still have beds, but we are close to capacity, and even with some beds, the health care system is strained,” Davis said.

That’s been the case for the past couple of months, he said, though RSV (respiratory syncytial virus) cases seem to be tapering off some, he said.

What all this means is that patients who are very ill will still be seen and treated and Carle will find a place to care for them, Davis said.

For many though, the current situation is going to mean a longer wait in the emergency department and from time to time some patients being boarded temporarily in the emergency department if there isn’t bed space available in other areas of the hospital, he said.

The community can help to protect the hospital’s capacity to care for those who need it most, Davis said, suggesting:

  • If you’re a healthy person and wake up with typical flu symptoms, stay home until you’re well.
  • If you need to be seen by a medical provider, “we’d ask you to consider, do you really need to be seen in an emergency department?”
  • While demand is fluid and varies from day to day, know that wait times are going to be longer during this “record busy” time and that you’ll be seen as quickly as possible, under triage guidelines, Davis said.
  • If you haven’t gotten a flu shot, consider getting one now. Lots of the patients coming into the emergency department with confirmed influenza cases haven’t had flu shots, Davis said.

Flu in Illinois is at a very high level, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

COVID-19 is at a medium community level throughout East Central Illinois, except for Piatt, Moultrie and Iroquois counties, where COVID-19 is at a low level.

The Champaign-Urbana Public Health District is advising masking at health care facilities while the potential remains for health care system strain.

District Administrator Julie Pryde said it’s also time to put into practice the time-honored protective measures that have been advised each flu season and have been also advised to help protect against COVID-19 — frequent hand washing and avoiding touching your eyes, nose and rest of your face.

OSF HealthCare spokesman Tim Ditman said both OSF Heart of Mary Medical Center, Urbana, and OSF Sacred Heart Medical Center, Danville, are seeing patients with seasonal illnesses as expected.

“Both hospitals have ICU (intensive care unit) beds available at this time, but like any other facility, things can change quickly,” he said Tuesday.