EDITORIAL: Take steps to fight flu

Nanaimo Regional General Hospital is over capacity, with an influenza outbreak in one unit and a “significant” increase in the number of people coming to its emergency department.

The flu has hit health-care facilities across Vancouver Island, but NRGH is the only hospital currently on Island Health’s active outbreak list. In Parksville, Trillium Lodge was hit with a respiratory or influenza-like illness in late-December.

NRGH was added Jan. 4 with four cases of influenza A, and while that number has since dropped to two and there are no other outbreaks in the facility, Damian Lange, the hospital’s director of clinical operations, reports there are patients with the flu on every unit and the number of people seen with flu-like symptoms is rising in the emergency department.

The hospital is seeing about 10-15 per cent more patients coming to the emergency room daily, much of it attributed to flu-related symptoms, according to Lange, who said the increase is “significant” with upwards of 200 people daily compared to the usual 175.

Lange said the type of volume and acuity with flu-related illness is predictable and Nanaimo is one of the last sites to tip into the surge this year. It’s a province-wide phenomenon, he said.

The hospital is also over capacity. It has 340 beds, not counting the spaces that open during high demand.

“We are not quite at the all-time record. We are uncomfortably close,” said Lange, who noted a record was set in early January 2017 with 372 patients, set again at the end of that month with 382 and the hospital saw its all-time high in June with 386.

Precautions are taken at the hospital to avoid the spread of the fu when there’s an outbreak, such as putting patients that show infectious signs into private or semi-private rooms, enhancing infection control, increasing hand-washing stations and educating visitors.

Even before flu season started, Island Health was asking people to protect themselves — thereby shielding others, too. Frequent hand-washing and staying home when sick are common-sense steps, and it’s not too late to get a flu shot.

Island Health has asked people not to visit hospitals, residential care or assisted-living facilities if they are sick, to avoid using emergency services if their health care can be met by their doctor or at walk-in clinics, and for visitors to wear masks if they haven’t had a flu shot.

The flu is no fun, and that can be an understatement. Doing our best to be flu-free is the respectful thing to do and the right thing to do.

Get well soon, or better yet, be well now.

— Black Press

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