Wednesday, August 22, 2007

More deaths if flu overtaxes overcrowded ERs

I have written (in addition to my speech in Boston at the Association of Black Cardiologists meeting) before about ER care and overcrowding and its contribution to deaths. As I have said some real changes must take place or the problems will only get worse. I have, also, been in talks with a cardiologist with WomenHeart about putting together a national effort to do just that and look forward to that effort.

I came across an article today that drives home the need to address ER care issues sooner rather than later. It seems Australia is experiencing a particularly virulent flu season (theirs is opposite ours and possibly upside down). The incidence of the disease appears to be triple the previous year. This strain is making folks sicker and possibly has a higher death rate than with previous year’s strains and it is just the “usual” influenza A that occurs annually (not “bird flu” or anything exotic).

The biggest concern (not that the flu itself is not concerning) is that the illness is overwhelming their healthcare infrastructure. That sort of “pressure” will undoubtedly contribute to increases in other death categories. As we know, ERs are nearly at capacity on a good night, what with increased patient numbers, sicker people presenting, and full hospitals backlogging patients into the ER.

Will our next flu season (in a few months) be equal to Australia’s in severity? If so, we need to begin to address the problem now so that we have some plan to handle the limited resources that a serious flu epidemic will “test”. Let’s do it before we have anyone else die in a hospital ER waiting room (see also).

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