Intense flu season prompts longer wait times in ER

Published: Feb. 19, 2016 at 12:10 AM MST|Updated: Mar. 2, 2018 at 4:19 PM MST
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TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) - Tucson hospitals are seeing an influx of flu patients as this year's flu season continues to run rampant throughout the state, prompting longer wait times in the emergency room.

"Its absolutely because of the flu," said Dr. Sean Elliot, medical director of infection prevention at Banner University Medical Center. "We went from basically zero to 60 in terms of flu cases and sick patients coming in the ER and being hospitalized."

Elliott said as expected during flu season, Banner UMC is going to see an increase in wait times due to the higher volume of people.

He said right now, depending on the time of the day and how sick the patient is, there's about a 4-hour wait at Banner UMC, sometimes longer.

Elliott said the busiest time for their ER tends to be around dinner time.

"That's when patients really stack up," Elliott said. "Some could even be waiting until 2 or 3 in the morning."

He said as with any ER practice, the sickest patients are triaged most quickly, followed by the ones that may need to wait a little bit of time.

Officials at Carondelet St. Mary's Hospital said they've seen 50 percent more patients than usual this month.

Elliott said Banner UMC works with other Tucson hospitals to share resources to better attend to their patients.

Elliott said the Banner UMC's command center conducts its flu status report and a bedding status report three times a day, and it's even more urgent now.

"Everybody feels worse when they have the flu," Elliott said. "That additional burden of our community being sick with the flu is adding on top to the normal high acuity patients that we have here."

With Arizona being the fifth state to reach widespread flu levels last week, this flu season appears to be a tough one.

Those who feel "a little" sick, may want to think twice about going to the emergency room.

"Call your doctor," Elliott said. "Find out if you need to be seen. Those who do need to be seen will be seen absolutely."

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