Flu deaths rise, patients pack Bay Area emergency rooms: ‘All hands on deck,’ doctor says

David Feldman, MD, chairman and medical director at Good Samaritan Hospital Department of Emergency Medicine, poses for a portrait in the emergency room at Good Samaritan Hospital on Thursday, Jan. 11, 2018, in San Jose, Calif. (Jim Gensheimer/Bay Area News Group)

The emergency room at Good Samaritan Hospital has been so packed with patients suffering from miserable flu symptoms the past few weeks, with incoming ambulances lined up outside and hospital rooms jammed, the staff has gone to its “Code Green” nearly every day.

“It’s all hands on deck,” said Dr. David Feldman, chairman of Good Samaritan’s Emergency Department.

Hospital CEO Joe DeSchryver has picked up a broom to sweep out emergency rooms for the stream of patients. Grace Ibe, a vice president, has wheeled patients in gurneys upstairs. And CFO Jody Dial has come in at midnight to troubleshoot and bring pizza.

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“There have been times we’ve had two or three times the number of patients we have space for,” Feldman said. “For a 10-day period around Christmas, we were setting a new record every day.”

David Feldman, MD, chairman and medical director at San Jose’s Good Samaritan Hospital Department of Emergency Medicine, poses for a portrait in the emergency room annex that was opened on Thursday, Jan. 11, 2018, to make room for the surge in flu patients. (Jim Gensheimer/Bay Area News Group)

At hospitals around the Bay Area and across the country, those on the front lines of what is shaping up to be the worst flu season in a decade are struggling to keep up — and wondering whether it will get worse.

“It also struck early. What we’re not sure yet is whether we’ve hit the peak,” said Dr. Jonathan Blum, infectious disease and flu leader at Kaiser Permanente Santa Clara. “If it turns out we keep going up, it would make it a very bad season.”

Doctors and nurses are working overtime and double shifts. Some have become sick themselves, causing staff shortages when they are needed most. As one doctor put it, in emergency departments where misery is often hidden behind ubiquitous blue masks, “there’s a lot of coughing, sneezing, crying and fever.”

Across California, at least 42 people younger than 65 have died since Oct. 1 because of flu-related illnesses — including at least 19 in the Bay Area — compared with three statewide last year. In Santa Clara County, five people have died this season — including a 40-year-old woman last week at Good Samaritan — and six in Contra Costa County. In Alameda County, hospitals are seeing a surge in flu patients, but no flu-related deaths had been reported by late last week.

“I definitely don’t think we’re over the worst of it. Not at all,” said Stacey Hanover, director of emergency and trauma services at UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital Oakland. When it comes to staffing, “we are not reducing in any kind of way. In fact, we’re ramping up.”

Because the Oakland hospital is a “Level 1” pediatric trauma center and always ready for a major crisis, she said, the staff isn’t overwhelmed. “This isn’t our first rodeo.”

On Thursday, El Camino Hospital …read more

Source:: The Mercury News – Latest News


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