Multiple Tri-State hospitals nearing capacity, diverting emergency services

Flu hospitalizations have nearly doubled in the last three days.
Tri-State hospitals dealing with flu season
Published: Nov. 29, 2022 at 6:26 PM EST
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CINCINNATI (WXIX) - Tri-State hospitals are at or near capacity due to an early and unusually bad surge in flu cases.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control says it’s one of the worst flu seasons in more than a decade.

At least three hospitals in the region—Jewish Hospital, UC Medical Center and West Chester Hospital—have requested emergency medical services diverted elsewhere due to the increase in flu hospitalizations.

The hospitals are not turning down patients at this time. UCMC, the region’s only Level 1 trauma center, will continue to take trauma, burn and stroke patients, per a UC Health spokesperson.

“The last time we saw a flu season this early was in 2009,” said Hamilton County Health Commissioner Greg Kesterman. “It’s very, very early for us.”

Kesterman showed data at Monday’s Hamilton County Board of Commissioner’s meeting showing a sharp increase in local cases compared to the yearly average going back to 2017.

Local hospital beds were already busy coming out of Thanksgiving, with 95 percent of surgical beds and 99 percent of ICU beds in use.

Tiffany Mattingly with the Health Collaborative says the area nearly doubled its flu-based hospitalizations over the weekend, with just 80 reported on Friday and nearly 150 on Tuesday.

“That’s a huge increase in a short period of time,” she said.

Mattingly says hospital resources are stressed precariously thin with flu patients coming in together with COVID-19 patients and those with other respiratory illnesses.

“The flu is actually hitting us quicker and harder than we expected,” Mattingly explained. “We knew it was going to get hit hard, but I don’t think we realized it was going to happen as soon as it has.”

Patients aren’t being turned away at this time. But as hospitals reach capacity, treatments take longer than they would otherwise, and ambulances making emergency runs will divert to the next closest hospital.

“EMS or an ambulance, when they pick up a patient, if it’s not a life- or limb-threatening emergency, they will then bypass one hospital and go to the next hospital,” she said. “That way the patient can be seen quicker.”

As family and friends continue to gather for the holiday season, both Mattingly and Kesterman say it’s important to continue the measures everyone learned over the pandemic: staying home when sick, handwashing, covering your cough, being aware when you’re out and getting vaccinated against both the flu and COVID-19.

“All those preventative measures are incredibly important right now, so we don’t have to be concerned about having another omicron surge in January and having the National Guard having to come in to help support our healthcare workforce,” Mattingly said.

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