Spike in flu cases prompts visitor restrictions, ED crowding

As the flu season kicks in early, hospitals across the country are restricting who can visit patients, ensuring staff and patient safety, and preventing flu cases from overwhelming emergency rooms.

Pardee Hospital in North Carolina, for instance, is only allowing in visitors who are patients' next of kin or closest contact, News Channel 7 reported.

The visitation restrictions went into effect when 2 percent of admitted patients showed flu symptoms. The hospital will increase the restrictions when flu symptoms are present in 6 percent or more of admitted patients, the article noted.

"The health of our patients and the community are the highest concern of Pardee Hospital," said Robert Kiskaddon, Pardee's chief medical officer and vice president of affairs.

Similarly, Rome (N.Y) Memorial Hospital is only letting in adults 18 years or older to visit patients, as well as making anyone entering the facility wear a mask and use hand sanitizer, the Observer-Dispatch reported.

What's more, an increase in flu cases can slow down care in hospital emergency rooms, according to My Fox 8. Kernersville (N.C) Medical Center saw the number of patients visiting its emergency department with flu or flu-like symptoms jump 10 percent in the past week alone.

To prevent ED crowding, hospitals can redirect flu patients to urgent care clinics, which may provide faster and cheaper care.

"For something like the flu, where our interventions are limited, at best, the emergency department is probably not the most efficient choice," Paul Horton, a Kernersville physician, told My Fox 8.

In addition to strict visitation restrictions, hospitals are implementing and enforcing flu-mask and vaccination policies for their workers. However, such policies haven't gone over well at some hospitals, with nurses and other staff protesting and a healthcare worker union filing suit.

To learn more:
- read the News Channel 7 article
- here's the Observer-Dispatch article
- read the High Point Enterprise article
- here's the My Fox 8 article