In Maine, hospital using outpatient surgery beds to handle influx of flu patients

The flu has come to Maine, and the emergency department at the Maine Medical Center in Portland is using outpatient surgery beds to handle the inpatient overload, the Bangor Daily News reports.

Here are five things to know:

1. Infectious disease specialist August Valenti, MD, said the ED has had to divert incoming flu patients to different hospitals on several occasions.

2. In addition to using outpatient surgery beds to handle the overload, flu patients are sometimes paired up in double rooms instead of private rooms.

3. The hospital has also considered canceling elective surgeries to keep acute care beds open and using a disaster management heating tent to triage emergency patients.

4. Flu season is typically later for Maine than more western and southern states, due to cooler weather and a sparser population. The latest Maine flu data in show that it has caused 34 deaths, 667 hospitalizations and outbreaks in 77 nursing homes, schools and other institutions this season, more than the 2009 H1N1 outbreak, one of the worst recent flu seasons. During the 2009 outbreak, 21 adults died from the flu and about 250 Maine residents were hospitalized.

5. If conditions worsen significantly, EMMC will look beyond outpatient surgery and open overflow beds in non-medical facilities, such as area hotels or the Cross Insurance Center.

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