Hospitals across the US are treating patients in inflatable tents
Hospitals across the US are treating patients in conference rooms and tents erected in parking lots as a trifecta of viruses overwhelms wards.
Official data shows hospitals nationwide are as busy as they ever were during the pandemic – with almost 80 percent of beds in use.
It is not just Covid doctors are contending with anymore, however, as a post-lockdown surge in flu and RSV is causing medicine and bed shortages.
Hospitals across the US have been treating patients in tents since mid-November after being hit by a particularly sharp surge in flu and Covid, especially since Thanksgiving.
But units in Albuquerque, San Diego and San Francisco have also had to put up makeshift wards to deal with the ‘tripledemic’ of viruses.
UC San Diego Health has been triaging patients in tents such as the one above in parking lots due to a lack of bed space in its regular wards
Doctors will triage patients in the tents — assessing their needs before they might be brought inside. An equal rise in the number of patients with Covid, flu and RSV has overwhelmed the hospital
The University of New Mexico Hospital in Albuquerque was forced to set up inflatable tents due to the number of patients far exceeding what it had dealt with at any time during the pandemic
Children have been hit particularly hard, with three-quarters of children’s hospital beds already full nationwide, blamed on lower natural immunity caused by lockdown.
Minors are already at increased risk of RSV and flu but after they were robbed of crucial exposure to healthy germs after two years of masks, lockdowns and school closures.
Tents were put up outside UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital in San Francisco after the 10,000-bed hospital was completely overwhelmed last month.
Still accepting patients, it set up a tent called a ‘flex space’ with room for seven beds.
Dr Joan Zoltansky, chief medical officer of UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital, told KABC-TV: ‘In that tent, is a space for patients with lower acuity conditions, sprain or ankle sprain or simple earache.’
UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital in Oakland also created an annex space to treat patients in when its emergency rooms are at capacity.
A man has his blood taken in an overflow tent outside Scripps Memorial Hospital Encinitas on November 11. The California hospital was forced to set up the tent after a rise in flu patients
The outside of UC San Diego Health’s tent, in an area that would usually be occupied by parked cars. Beds were also set up in hospital hallways inside for patients who have been admitted but were waiting for a bed
Dr Zoltansky said: ‘We have space in Oakland. It’s equivalent to a tent, it doesn’t happen to be a tent. It’s what we call an annex space in Oakland where we often take care of patients when our emergency rooms are full of patients.’
Meanwhile, UC San Diego Health has been triaging patients in tarpaulin tents in parking lots due to a lack of space.
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Fewer than half of nursing home residents are up to date with their Covid vaccinations, according to official figures that could signal another deadly wave.
Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) shows just 46 percent had taken up the most recent offer by November 27, while uptake is just 23 percent for nursing home staff.
Age and underlying health conditions are two of the biggest risk factors for Covid, which made nursing homes a hotbed for the virus during the pandemic.
In another worrying sign, Covid hospitalizations among Americans over 70 have jumped by around a third in a week, and flu hospital rates are at their highest point in more than a decade.
It comes as New York City and Los Angeles officials begin urging residents to mask-up again to stop the spread of the ‘tripledemic’ of Covid, flu and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV).
Beds were also set up in hallways for patients who have been admitted but were awaiting a hospital bed.
It comes as patients at multiple hospitals have been forced to stand for hours in emergency room waiting areas.
Chief medical officer of the hospital Dr Christopher Longhurst told CNN that staff were even reconfiguring conference room space to care for patients there.
The hospital has been overwhelmed with just as many Covid patients as patients with flu and RSV.
An Albuquerque hospital also closed its parking lot to set up inflatable tents outside its emergency department.
The University of New Mexico Hospital had to set up the tents due to the number of patients far exceeding what it had dealt with at any time during the pandemic.
For now, the tents are being used for triaging patients — where doctors will make their initial assessments on what is wrong.
No operations or extensive treatments are being carried out due to the tents only having basic equipment.
Dr Steve McLaughlin, chief medical officer at UNM Hospital, told KOAT-TV: ‘This was in response to the high levels of those respiratory infections that we’re seeing in the hospital.
‘Because of the impact on the space in the emergency department, we opened this tent, which is allowing us a little bit of extra space, some flexibility.’
Doctors have said this year’s season is ‘worse than any other’ they have faced — as seasonal bugs return with a vengeance and cases of flu and RSV hit their highest level in more than a decade.
There are also growing concerns that the US is about to be hit by a wave of Strep A infections striking after 15 children in the UK died from the normally benign bacterial bug — which is more common after viral infections such as RSV and flu.
Idaho, Arizona and Rhode Island are the worst hit states in America. Meanwhile, some are already telling people to mask up again — and not for Covid.
Official data showed children’s hospitals in Idaho are completely overwhelmed, treating more children than they have beds for — at 160 percent occupancy.
UC San Diego Health is relying on tents to triage patients. At other hospitals in California, healthcare staff were even reconfiguring conference room space to care for patients there
The hospital has had to close its parking lot to make space to triage patients. Dr Steve McLaughlin, chief medical officer at the hospital, said the change had to be made due to the high levels of respiratory infections
Arizona had the second busiest children’s wards overall, with 825 out of 850 beds — or 97 percent — occupied.
It was followed by Rhode Island with 223 of 232 beds occupied (96 percent), Nevada, 319 of 339 beds (94 percent), and Utah, 421 of 451 beds (93.3 percent).
Idaho has just one children’s hospital — St Luke’s — which is based in the state’s capital Boise.
In late November Dr Kathryn Turner, the deputy state epidemiologist for Idaho, warned their wards were ‘really low’ on capacity.
‘What we’re seeing right now is we’re seeing a normal increase in Covid cases, an increase in influenza cases — an early flu season, an early RSV season, and it’s all happening at once,’ she told KTVB7.
‘It’s happening during a time when our healthcare system is really low on capacity, not only because of these viral illnesses, but because they have staffing constraints.’
Doctors have been warning that this year’s flu season is one of the worst to date for children’s hospitals.
Dr Surabhi Bhargava Vora, an infectious disease expert at Seattle Children’s Hospital, told the New York Times last month: ‘[This season] is worse than any other RSV season I’ve ever seen’.