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Flu runs rampant, taxing hospitals

Date Posted: 2005-04-01

A serious influenza strain sweeping across Okinawa the past few weeks is overpowering local hospitals struggling to provide quality care.

The flu is causing waits of four hours or more at many hospitals, which are stretching their staffs to keep pace with the large numbers of patients walking in. Doctors and hospital administrators are trying to keep pace, but are finding themselves turning patients away.

A week ago more than 551 children showed up at Naha City’s hospital with the flu, even as doctors were struggling with signs of the virus themselves. Officials report seeing more than 250-270 patients a day, on average, with waits of 4-5 hours.

“There was a patient coming to Naha City hospital from a car accident, with broken bones and other injuries, but there were too many patients waiting in the corridors outside the emergency room,” a doctor said. “There simply was no room so the hospital told the injured man ‘sorry, as you can see, we cannot take care of you. Can you please go to another hospital?’ And we’re not the only ones.”

Chubu Area’s hospital was overwhelmed by the patient deluge, having too many influenza patients for its staff to treat. It had more than 200 patients within two days, forcing nurses and doctors to work almost around-the-clock to provide treatment. The hospital is now refusing to accept new patients for admission. An official says the northern Okinawa hospital has triple the number of patients as normal, with more than 350 waiting for treatment in a single two-day period.

Pediatric clinics at most Okinawa hospitals are working beyond capacity. The highest levels of influenza are being found with youngsters and the elderly, which are more susceptible to the virus.

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