Respiratory illness patients filling up Arizona emergency rooms
PHOENIX — Arizona health officials are warning about long wait times at emergency rooms as respiratory illnesses run rampant across the state.
“We’re seeing emergency department volumes that are approximately 30% higher than we have in previous periods,” Dr. Michael White, chief clinical officer for Valleywise Health, told KTAR News 92.3 FM on Wednesday.
The Arizona Local Health Officers Association issued a warning earlier this week about how a record-breaking flu season is affecting health care facilities.
The Arizona Department of Health Services reported more than 5,000 cases of influenza for the week of Dec. 4, over 10 times higher than typical for this time of year.
Patients also are seeking care at high rates for respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) and COVID-19.
While emergency departments have been busy, there hasn’t been a corresponding impact on hospital capacity, White said.
To ease the load on emergency rooms, health officials suggest that patients without severe symptoms should first contact their primary care providers.
“They often can provide a lot of recommendations on how to treat this or be able to see you in the office,” White said.
White said anybody who feels sick should stay home and isolate if possible, and consider wearing a face mask if they have to go out.
He also said it’s not too late to get a flu shot or a bivalent COVID-19 booster. There’s no vaccine for RSV, however.
With the holiday season here, White said he expects things to get worse before they get better.
“Typically after large gatherings and gathering times, we have seen an increase in those folks that need to be treated for these types of conditions,” he said.
“So, I do anticipate this will likely increase over the next few weeks as we traverse through the holidays.”
KTAR News 92.3 FM’s Griselda Zetino contributed to this report.