Over the last week John Peter Smith Hospital officials have been so swamped with flu patients they haven't been able to talk about what they've being seeing and experiencing.
On Thursday afternoon, the hospital's chief medical officer, Dr. Gary Floyd, provided some insights into how the flu is impacting the hospital and patients.
"It has rivaled other years," Floyd said of how sick influenza is making some people this season.
Floyd said he hopes his hospital has seen the worst of the flu season, but he wouldn't be surprised to see another surge in cases.
However, there is at least one promising number at JPS. At one point 26 people were hospitalized with flu and eight were in the ICU. On Thursday, the numbers were down to 10 hospitalizations and three in the ICU.
But as recently as Monday, JPS say 350 patients and during the last few weeks saw 380 on one day. On a typical day the hospital may see about 280 to 300 patients.
"That's a big impact and a lot of patients are requiring admission, more than usual, and that fills up beds upstairs," Floyd said.
Floyd shared one example where 35 people were waiting to be admitted to the hospital in the 56-room emergency department.
Earlier this week the hospital went to a "Code Yellow," canceling elective procedures, stopping non-emergency transfers and having staff add hours.
"This is a way of just heightening the awareness, that hey, 'we've got significant patient volume, in case you haven't looked around,'" Floyd said. "We use that again to help coordinate internal and external resources that might be needed. It's not unusual for us, we have many emergency codes, as a level one trauma center we use those emergency codes to make sure we can continue to deliver acute patient care."
The hospital says the medical community works together and that it looks to see where other facilities need help or can help them.
"We all trade around, not just resources, but bed space and what have you," he said.
Helping collect and coordinate that is the North Central Texas Trauma Regional Advisory Council, or "The RAC." Executive Director Rick Antonisse says in the last week the non-profit state contractor initiated bed counts to help hospitals see where transfers are possible and to see the impacts of the flu on the 19 county region of North Texas that it oversees. The RAC has also supplied ventilators to hospitals in need.
"Last week and early this week there were challenges with a couple of hospitals and we do have a cache of resources available to us for crisis events," Antonisse said.
The flu is by no means a crisis, but rather considered a surge of cases at this point. It's a surge Floyd says JPS is handling.
"It wears you out, I'll tell you," Floyd said. "Staff get tired, but they continue answering the bell."
Floyd says JPS staff has not been hit hard by the flu. He says 95 percent of employees got their flu shots back in October.
Floyd says some of the Code Yellow restrictions have been reduced and that the hospital could be back to normal operations soon.
To help ease the volume of patients at the emergency department though, the hospital has added clinic hours at some JPS facilities for walk-in patients who are sick at the following locations.
- JPS Health Center - Stop Six/Walter B. Barbour
- JPS Health Center - Diamond Hill
- JPS Health Center - Northeast
- JPS Health Center - Viola M. Pitts/Como
- JPS Health Center - South Campus
- JPS Health Center - Arlington/Kathryn Wilemon
These clinics will accept walk-in appointments for sick patients Monday through Friday from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m., Saturday from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. and Sunday from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m.
JPS isn't the only hospital to go to a Code Yellow stage. Baylor Health Care System has also initiated a Code Yellow due to the high volume of patients with flu or flu-like symptoms.
"This is a pro-active alert to allow us to streamline requests for resources and ensure consistency to our response to the flu for our patients and staff," Craig Civale of Baylor said in a statement.