THE FLU: Emergency Rooms Reach Saturation Point
Northern California emergency rooms are being inundated with patients suffering from a powerful influenza strain, forcing some hospitals to close their emergency rooms for hours at a time, the Sacramento Bee reports. Colleen McKeown, nurse executive for the Sacramento Valley Kaiser hospitals, said, "We were hit with a very high volume of patients two years ago that we truly were not prepared for [that taught] us some very significant lessons [for this year]." Dr. Loring Dales, a medical officer with the Communicable Disease Division of the state Department of Health Services, said that most of the flu seen this year is type A Sydney, one the strains included in this season's flu vaccine. Other upper-respiratory illnesses which are affecting California's emergency rooms include respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), a type of pneumonia, and parainfluenza, a flu-like illness (Griffith, 1/6).
Blood Shortage Causes Delays in Surgery
In other related news, three Peninsula hospitals and others in the San Francisco area have canceled some elective surgery because of a critical blood shortage, the San Jose Mercury News reports. Mills-Peninsula Hospital in Burlingame, Kaiser Permanente Medical Center in Redwood City and Seton Hospital in Daly City have said that type "O" blood supplies are at critical levels. Lisa Bloch of the Blood Centers of the Pacific said, "They need to re-evaluate what surgeries are necessary. They need to prioritize." Due to a decrease in blood donations during the Christmas and New Year's holidays, county blood supplies are dangerously low. Bloch added, "If an organ comes in, we may not be able to give blood. A liver transplant can require 40 to 60 units. It can totally wipe out the supply" (Krieger/Gathright, 1/6).