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Reality Check: Flu outbreak overwhelming local hospitals

(IMG:WPMI) Reality Check: Flu outbreak overwhelming local hospitals

The worst flu season in a decade has yet to peak. The acting CDC Director says, "We may be on track to break some recent records." NBC 15's Andrea Ramey reports how the flood of patients has impacted our local emergency rooms..

When you're in an emergency, every second counts. But with flu patients filling ER's, paramedics, in some cases, are forced to take patients elsewhere.

"You're basically sitting with your patient on your stretcher because they have no available beds," said Newman's paramedic Ron Broughton. "I had a truck that sat there between two and half and three hours with a patient on a stretcher."

Mobile Infirmary saw an increase of 300 patients in its ER last month with the flu. USA Medical saw a 15% jump in patients,

"It causes delays for the other patients. It causes a stress on our resources," said Dr. Panacek, USA Chair of Emergency Medicine.

That strain on resources can force hospitals to divert patients.

"If we know we don't have any beds to admit them to, that it would be safer for a patient to go to hospital where they do have beds they can admit to and that's why hospitals go on diversion," said Panacek.

Since USA Medical is Mobile's only level one trauma center. Diversion doesn't apply to serious cases like trauma from a car crash or stroke victims.

"They will never put themselves so maxed out that they can't see a true emergency," said Mobile Fire-Rescue paramedic Michael Jordan.

Jordan says half of all their calls in the last few weeks are flu-related.

"It's bad," said Jordan.

Health officials warn: don't go to the hospital if you don't have to, even to visit someone. And if you suspect you have the flu, you're better off first going to your primary care physician or an Urgent Care.

According to analysis done by Pro Publica, Mobile Infirmary has the shortest ER wait time, on average it's 24 minutes. This data is current through this past December, and is an average, not a current wait time. To view the data and see how hospitals compare, CLICK HERE

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