INDIO – JFK Hospital is much busier than usual. On a normal day, theiremergency roomgets 120 patients. Now, they’re seeing 160 people a day come into the ER. More than half are complaining of flu-like symptoms.
“We have extra staff helping us out,” says nurse Carmen Reyes.”We also have an extra triage area where we can speed up the process, and, at the same time, we have a physician. We havea couple of doctors that are seeing these patients very fast.”
“We’re getting plenty of rest, coming to work in clean uniforms,” nurse Dorothy Seitz added.”I’m not wearing my shoes at home, ever. I leave them in a bag and I walk home with clean shoes. We psych ourselves up. We’re actually expecting to have large volumes of people.”
The hospital tells us everybody in theER waiting room is told to wear a mask to prevent the flu’s spread.
Problem is many patients come to theER with their entire extended families, clogging up the place.
Dr. Frank Curry warns people to only come to the emergency room if they havesevere respiratory problems or chest pain.
“If you have a fever that’s out of control — 102, 103, 104 degrees — and you can’t control it with Tylenol, then you may need to come to the emergency room.”
Mexican drug cartels are even the focus of patient myths the nurses find themselves having to confront.
“There’s a belief that because of the cartels, they threw something up in the air, that everyone’s getting. This is where we come in and just tell the patient about the facts,” said Reyes.
When it comes to the facts, even the probable cases of swine flu will likely not be confirmed for several days. Riverside County’s equipment can only figure out if somebody has “Influenza Type A.”
There are 15 different types of this flu strain. Many of them are nearly harmless.
For now, the wait continues for definitive answers while JFK hospital gets ready for whatever comes its way.