Flu Strains RI Emergency Rooms

Jan 17, 2018

Nearly 300 people have been hospitalized for the flu in Rhode Island this season, and emergency rooms at two local hospitals are overwhelmed with patients.

State Health Director Nicole Alexander-Scott said Wednesday the recent spike in flu-related hospitalizations is “not significantly higher” than it was last season. However, she said, the increase is contributing to longer wait times at Rhode Island Hospital and The Miriam Hospital emergency rooms.  

Dr. John Miskovsky, a family physician in Pawtucket, said the problem is especially acute at The Miriam.

“It’s just been insane,’’ he said. “I mean I’ve had patients tell me they’ve waited 13 hours in the Emergency Department to have a determination made (as to) whether they need to be admitted. And once they’ve been admitted, they’ve waited three or four days in emergency holding areas to get beds.”

The recent closing of Memorial Hospital in Pawtucket, Miskovsky said, is partly to blame.  “Couple a bad flu season with one less emergency department,’’ he said, “and it’s really been almost catastrophic.’’

Rhode Island health officials said there have been seven flu-related deaths and 295 hospitalizations so far this season. Last year, 33 people died and 1,216  were hospitalized due to flu-related illnesses.

To help alleviate the emergency room wait times, Dr. Alexander-Scott is encouraging residents who are unsure whether they need to visit the emergency room to consult their primary care doctor or visit an urgent-care clinic.