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Local hospitals say Emergency Departments are handling flu season well

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Over a thousand Connecticut residents have been hospitalized with flu-like symptoms, and we’re just getting into peak flu season. If the trends hold, that would make this flu season not as bad as last year’s, and many hospitals said they are handling the extra strain on their Emergency Departments well.

“It’s here,” said Dr John Brancato, who works in Pediatric Emergency Medicine at Connecticut Childrens Medical Center in Hartford, “the flu has arrived. We are seeing a large number of patients with it.”

Dr. Brancato said it’s also busy season for asthma, upper respiratory infections, and other flu-like viral infections, but that his hospital can handle the rush…

“Knowing in advance that we’re going to be busier we try to staff up,” he said, “it’s almost impossible to have the perfect number on every single day but we have somebody on backup call to come in and try to handle the extra burden.”

“On rare days we can be up to a couple of hours [of a wait time] for lower acuity patients,” Dr. Brancato said.

“Of course, patients who need to be seen right away are seen right away, we make it happen.”

Emergency Department wait times can be highly variable, but Trinity Health of New England said it’s not seeing a big increase in wait times, either, in both city hospitals like Saint Francis Hospital in Hartford, and in more remote hospitals like Johnson Memorial Hospital in Stafford. That being said, not everyone who comes to a hospital’s Emergency Department for flu symptoms needs to.

Dr. Brancato said children under five, and especially two, as well as children with underlying illnesses are more vulnerable and may be more likely to need hospitalization for the flu. However, for the rest of the population, Dr. Brancato said it depends on the nature of the symptoms.

“I think it depends on the nature of the symptoms,” he explained, “So an otherwise healthy ten-year-old, for example, who has mild flu-like symptoms, maybe a fever, maybe some body aches, maybe they vomited once, that patient probably doesn’t need to come straight to the Emergency Department. The best place to be seen is at the pediatrician’s office. They very often have the ability to do rapid response in their offices as well.”

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