Hospitals, Paramedics Get Creative in Midst of Flu Influx

MedStar leaving some patients on stretchers outside ER's

With the number of flu cases reaching crisis levels, paramedics in Fort Worth have started to leave some patients on stretchers outside emergency rooms because of serious overcrowding.

The patients are carefully watched by a single paramedic or a supervisor who remains there until they can be seen by hospital staffers.

MedStar ambulance service in Fort Worth came up with the temporary plan because medics were getting caught in the backlog and unable to respond to other emergencies, supervisor Nate Raymond said.

"The flu this year is the worst it's been,” Raymond said. “I've been a paramedic for 15 years. This is the worst I've ever seen it in 15 years."

At one point Tuesday night, Raymond said seven ambulances had lined up outside John Peter Smith Hospital waiting to drop off patients. It is the first time MedStar has allowed medics to leave before the hospital accepts their patients.

The ambulance service is responding to an average of 42 flu calls a day. “It’s taxing our system,” Raymond said.

JPS remained on yellow alert Wednesday. The alert means elective surgeries are being rescheduled and the hospital is not accepting routine transfers from other hospitals.

The hospital, which has treated more than 4,000 people in its emergency department since Jan. 1, remains open and able to treat trauma patients, spokeswoman Kristen Newcomer said.

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