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With the outbreak of flu in Berks County, St. Joseph Medical Center opened a Rapid Flu Assessment Area in its Emergency Room in Bern Township to handle the growing volume of patients seeking care for flu-like symptoms.
The Rapid Flu Area opened Monday and will be in operation during the bulk of the time when patients with symptoms are arriving, which is between noon and 8 p.m. Monday through Friday. The facility will remain open until the outbreak abates.
Patients with flu-like symptoms should check-in to the main emergency department in order for a professional triage nurse to fully assess their condition.
“Triage is an important part of the process, particularly so we can ensure that flu symptoms are not masking something more serious, like a heart or lung condition,” says Sandy Reedy, who manages St. Joseph’s Emergency Department.
Reedy says if patients’ symptoms are clearly resulting from the flu — and they are not too severe, like suffering from dehydration — patients will be directed to the Rapid Flu Area. Reedy says state-wide medical and clinical sources are indicating that the flu outbreak is “really just beginning and expected to become more severe over the next two weeks before it breaks.”
Reedy cautions that patients with “co-morbidities,” i.e., another health problem like congestive heart failure combined with the flu, will not be moved to the Rapid Flu Assessment area as their conditions require closer monitoring.
Reedy says by “cohorting” flu patients in the same area it minimizes exposures to others and also will “decompress the volume in the acute care ER to be prepared to address life threatening emergencies.”