Overwhelmed R.I. Hospitals Divert Ambulances
Jan. 04—PROVIDENCE, R.I.—Emergency departments at three Providence hospitals were so overwhelmed with patients Wednesday that they began diverting ambulances elsewhere.
A flu outbreak and an increase in the number of accidents related to the cold weather were responsible for the influx of patients, according to one hospital group.
Rhode Island Hospital was the first to notify the state Department of Health that it would be "going on diversion" shortly after 5 a.m. A little more than 90 minutes later—just before 6:40 a.m.—The Miriam Hospital made the same notification. By 11 a.m., Roger Williams Medical Center said it, too, would begin diversion.
State "safety net" regulations, however, ban more than two hospitals in the state's "Northern Hospital Group" from going on diversion at the same time. Consequently, all three hospitals were then forced open, officials said.
Dr. John Murphy, executive vice president of physician affairs for Lifespan, which includes Rhode Island Hospital and The Miriam Hospital, said diversion status is not unusual, and the hospital group believes the flu is partially responsible for the increased volume.
The state health department on Wednesday announced that the flu is "widespread," triggering the state's requirement for unvaccinated health-care workers in hospitals and other health-care facilities to wear surgical masks.