Respiratory illnesses filling up hospitals

January 04, 2004|HERB BROCK

Jackie Saylor's official title is office manager at North Garrard Family Medical Center. But in the last few weeks, she has felt like going by another job title: beggar.

"We've been having a difficult time in recent weeks finding hospital beds for some of our patients," said Saylor, whose office sends patients to Fort Logan Hospital in Stanford. "We've been doing a lot of begging."

An outbreak of influenza and other viruses, pneumonia and other respiratory illnesses, plus a lot of surgeries, both elective and emergency, have caused acute-care beds at the three area hospitals - McDowell Regional Medical Center in Danville, James B. Haggin Memorial Hospital in Harrodsburg and Fort Logan - to fill up fast.

As far as the availability of acute-care beds at the three hospitals, the condition is criticial. At the largest of the three facilities, the 177-bed McDowell center, the situation may be turning grave.


"We are currently at capacity with the beds we have available for patients, as we are admitting and discharging many patients on a daily basis," said Barry Michael, president of the hospital.

Recent figures for the emergency room on McDowell's first floor reflect the pressure being put on bed space in the acute-care floors above.

"We are currently seeing a 30-to-40 percent increase in the number of patients coming to our emergency room than what is typical on a regular day," Michael said.

Michael said bed space in particular and all hospital services in general typically are "stretched to the max" in January and February because of the influx of patients admitted in the winter months for treatment for flu and illnesses with flu-like symptoms, penumonia, respiratory conditions and other cold-weather illnesses.

Many times, flu and flu-like illnesses go into pneumonia, particularly in the case of older patients, and those patients can no longer can take medications at home and need hospitalization, he said.

Adding to the early winter demand for beds are patients who delay treatment for non-life threatening illnesses and postpone elective surgeries until after the Christmas holidays.

But the pressure on beds caused by winter illnesses and surgeriences appears to be greater than past winters and has started earlier, Michael said.

And the delays are happening both in admissions to beds and emergency room care, he acknowledged.

"Individuals who are ill may experience a delay in being seen by a physician when they seek medical care at the emergency department," he said. "As is always the case in the emergency room, those patients who are the most critically ill are seen prior to those patients with less critical symptoms.

"Delays also may be experienced when a patient is being placed in an inpatient bed for admission to the hospital," said Michael.

Dr. Barry Spoonamore, chief of the McDowell medical staff, asked people seeking care at the hospital and their physicians for patience.

"We are placing patients in hospital beds as quickly as they become available. Patients who need hospitalization will be cared for," said Spoonamore.

"We apologize for any inconvenience that people may experience as a result of the capacity conditions we currently are experiencing," he said. "It is our goal to provide the medical attention that individuals need as promptly as we can provide it to them."

Fort Logan is experiencing the same crowded bed conditions as McDowell, while the situation at Haggin is not as serious.

"The last two weeks we have been running at capacity," said Mike Jackson, administrator at Fort Logan, which has 25 acute-care beds, all filled. "The situation of full capacity is typical for this time of year but it may have begun a little earlier than usual."

However, Fort Logan has been able to accommodate most admission requests, saying there have not been a lot of postponements.

Earl Motzer, administrator at Haggin, said demand for the hospital's 25 acute-care beds is following the same winter pattern of past years when the census has been high, but he said not all the beds are full.

"Our census is higher than normal but that is typical for this time of year," said Motzer. "Our 25 long-term care beds are full but we still have a few of our 25 acute-care beds that are available for patients."

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