As respiratory virus spikes, health care systems ask Minnesotans to ease strain on providers

Minnesota health care providers are asking patients to help ease stress as rising cases of influenza and RSV across the state cause delays at some facilities.

At a press conference Monday at Hennepin Healthcare in Minneapolis, providers across the state — including Allina Health, CentraCare, M Health Fairview, HealthPartners and Children’s Minnesota — explained how the rapid influx of patients has pushed some providers beyond capacity. or more has been done. ,

“Our Pediatric ICU for children [Minnesota] have been working over capacity – really over capacity – for the past several weeks,” said Dr. Robert Cicoli, system medical director of Children’s Emergency Services of Minnesota.

“There have been days when we had 30 to 40 children waiting in our emergency departments, waiting for an inpatient bed. This is unprecedented. It supports the care of all other children.

The state’s most recent flu report shows that the number of influenza hospitalizations continues to rise, representing some of the most severe cases of the disease. During the week ending November 12, there were 243 influenza hospitalizations, more than double the previous week, with most among people aged 5 to 24 and those over 65.

“It’s just a matter of time before we see this acceleration of growth in general,” Melissa McMahon, a senior epidemiologist at the state health department specializing in influenza surveillance, told MPR News. “The level of growth isn’t necessarily something we haven’t seen before. But it is a solid month earlier than what we typically see, at least according to pre-pandemic patterns.”

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McMahon said it is unclear when the flu will peak sooner, as the season is already progressing. In a normal year, she said, it starts to climb after the holidays. But since Covid it has become even more difficult to predict the weather.

“In our emergency departments, in our outpatient clinics, we’re seeing numbers that are comparable to the middle of winter, a bad In the middle of winter,” said Cicoli. “So there are days, in both of our emergency departments, we’re seeing over 200 patients a day on both campuses. Which is a lot.”

Plus, ongoing staffing issues, as well as shortages in bed space and essential drugs like amoxicillin, are contributing to the challenges. To reduce stress on health care facilities, providers recommend using telehealth and seeking care for less serious illnesses at home, if possible.

Providers say part of the challenge is that some parents have never seen their child get sick like this before — potentially because of COVID mitigation efforts — and may want to take their children to the hospital when they don’t need to. are being brought into the facilities.

“It’s because of fear, you know, a lot of people haven’t seen these diseases in their kids. And it’s not that kids don’t look sick — they do. It’s the degree of illness and the symptoms you look for.” are bringing them in,” said Dr. Andrea Singh, chair of pediatrics at Park Nicollet.

Singh said signs of more serious illness include a persistent fever that isn’t subsiding, signs of dehydration and shortness of breath where the baby’s ribs are visible or causes a flaring nose. In those cases, you’ll probably want to reach out to your health care provider.

“It’s not that we don’t want to see your children, but we also want to allow capacity for children who really need a higher level of care,” Singh said.

As we head into the holiday season, where more people are gathering together and indoors, providers are also recommending that you take steps to protect yourself from getting sick first. This includes washing your hands regularly, wearing a mask, staying home when you are sick, and making sure you are up-to-date about your COVID booster and influenza vaccine.

Experts say that if you haven’t gotten a flu shot yet, it’s still not too late.

“Your highest level of protection will be about two weeks after the shot, but your body will be building up its own immunity as soon as you get it,” McMahon said. “So, for people to say: ‘Oh, it’s too late for me to get this before Thanksgiving,’ it’s really not. Any level of protection is going to be helpful.”

Lastly, providers are asking people to be patient with them during this difficult time.

“Please have mercy on us,” said Dr. Ashley Strobel, emergency physician at Hennepin Healthcare. “We are working very hard and doing our best. We are parents just like you. We are Minnesotans just like you and we want to take care of you.

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