Flu Surge Drives Calif. Hospital's Care Outdoors
Feb. 07—Kaweah Delta Medical Center in Visalia is seeing so many patients with the flu that it has had to erect a second tent outside its emergency department to handle the surge in patients.
"We are pulling out all of the stops and doing everything under the sun to take care of patients during this very challenging flu season," said Gary Herbst, chief executive officer of Kaweah Delta Health Care District. "We've actually never had two tents up at the same time."
Kaweah Delta erected a tent on Nov. 22, to expand the size of its waiting area and accommodate an increase in patient visits this extreme flu season, and to accommodate an increase in patients from the recent closure of Tulare Regional Medical Center.
Four people have died of flu-related complications this flu season in Tulare County. Fresno County and Kings County have each reported one flu death. Statewide, at least 127 people younger than age 65 have died. The state does not report flu deaths of people who are 65 and older.
The California Department of Public Health gave approval on Wednesday for the hospital to begin using the second tent for care. It's on the east side of the emergency department and is being used as a staging area for patients who are brought to the hospital by ambulance but do not have life-threatening conditions.
The tent should enable ambulance crews to respond to emergency calls more quickly, the hospital said. Without the tent, the emergency medical technicians have had to bring patients into the emergency department on gurneys and care for them until an examination room opens.
Kaweah Delta is urging people to go to their personal doctors for conditions that are not life-threatening or will not require hospitalization. If their doctor is not available and the condition is not life-threatening, they are asking patients to go to urgent care centers or walk-in clinics. In addition, the hospital asks that patients bring just one guest with them to the emergency department.
Here are some of the conditions that not life-threatening and can be treated at Kaweah Delta Urgent Care, Sequoia Prompt Care, or Visalia Medical Clinic's QuickCare: fever or flu symptoms (cold, sore throat, cough), sprains, broken bones, fractures, mild asthma/breathing difficulties, abdominal pain, cuts (minimal blood, stitches or staples), ear infections, vomiting, diarrhea or dehydration, animal bites, urinary tract infections, bronchitis, burns or chemical exposure, infected wounds.
But the following conditions/injuries should be treated at Kaweah Delta's emergency department: heart attacks/strokes, uncontrollable severe bleeding, sudden or severe pain, coughing blood or vomiting blood, severe breathing difficulties, sudden dizziness, weakness or vision changes, severe vomiting or diarrhea, changes in mental status/confusion, open bone fractures. If you are experiencing any of these conditions, call 911 immediately.