Some Triangle hospitals at full capacity as flu season intensifies

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RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — Several hospitals in the Triangle are at full capacity in the midst of flu season.

“Although this is a challenge, it is not a crisis,” said Dr. Thomas Owens with Duke University Hospital president.

Owens said for the past two weeks, the beds at Duke University hospitals have been full.

“It makes it hard for us to find the right place for a patient, so we have to work extra hard on all those transitions to make sure patients are getting the right care in the right place when this happens,” said Owens.

Duke University hospitals aren’t alone in capacity issues and having to divert patients.

A spokesperson said UNC Medical Center is often at capacity in recent weeks. It’s the same with UNC REX Hospital. They’ll often hold patients in their emergency departments while waiting for available beds.

A WakeMed spokesperson said they’ve been above capacity this week, causing brief periods of diversion to other hospitals.

Some patients are brought to other local emergency departments when that happens. As of Friday, WakeMed wasn’t at full capacity.

WakeMed staff said diversion doesn’t apply to trauma, severe heart attack or stroke patients.

“It’s everyone doing the best and most efficient care they can in the reality of the situation,” said Assistant Chief Jeffrey Hammerstein with Wake County EMS.

Hammerstein said it can have a trickle-down effect to ambulances.  

“It backs up the system,” said Hammerstein. “It’s difficult to move patients from the emergency department up to a bed on the floor if they’re full up there and that slows everything down.”

Although doctors said it’s a rough flu season, they said reaching capacity also comes down to the growing community.

Within the increasing populations, they’re seeing more cases of obesity and cardiovascular disease.

“I think there’s a need to manage the flow and prediction of patients even more carefully since this is our new norm now,” said Owens.

Officials said the hospitals and EMS crews work very closely together to see what patients are needing along with the trends they’re seeing to combat this issue.

There are also expansions underway at various area hospitals.

At the end of the day, doctors said still seek medical help if you’re sick.

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