Crowded hospitals dealing with H1N1 surge

LOS ANGELES The wait time L.A. USC Medical Center's ER is so long nurses told one patient, who is suffering from diabetes, pain and high-blood pressure, she probably won't get care until tomorrow.

"They told me maybe 24 hours until I can see a doctor," said one sick patient.

At White Memorial Medical Center ER physicians say they are seeing a sharp spike in flu activity.

"Those volumes have gone up significantly, from about 20 a day to 40 a day" said Dr. Brian Johnston from White Memorial Medical Center.

L.A. County Supervisor Gloria Molina says her colleagues voted to activate County- USC's emergency surge plan. The plan is only supposed to be used in times of a catastrophe. It is the only way to deal with the overcrowding.

"Anytime they get to 13 patients waiting longer than 11 to 12 hours we are going to have to make decisions to buy private beds for these patients," said Supervisor Molina. "That is a decision we made. It is going to cost the county more, but unfortunately that is our situation today."

Supervisor Molina attributes the overload to three things: not planning for enough hospital beds at County-USC, closure of other local ER's and the rise of flu-like illness that many predict will tax County-USC even more.

"It could happen as early as next week or next month," said Supervisor Molina. "We are seeing more and more cases, particularly in children. We are nervous about that."

Molina says the county is transferring about three or four patients a day to private hospitals. This expensive solution may help some but not all.

If H1N1 cases continue to rise there won't be any hospital beds available or any for the county to buy. Supervisor Molina says another solution maybe to open up the old Women's and Children's Hospital.

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