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California Hospitals Are A ‘War Zone’ With Flu Patients; Setting Up Tents

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(Via The LA Times)

na Oktay rushed to the hospital in late December struggling to breathe, with a 102-degree fever and a cough that wouldn’t let up.

​​​​​She expected doctors to tell her she had pneumonia or bronchitis.

“They were just like: ‘It’s just influenza A. It’s just what’s going around,’” said Oktay, 49.

An influenza A strain known as H3N2 is making people so ill in California that thousands have shown up in recent weeks at hospitals struggling to fight the infection.

“I was flat on my back and in bed for 10 days,” said Oktay, who lives in Palms. “This has been hands down the worst flu I’ve ever dealt with.”

The huge numbers of sick people are also straining hospital staff who are confronting what could become California’s worst flu season in a decade.

Hospitals across the state are sending away ambulances, flying in nurses from out of state and not letting children visit their loved ones for fear they’ll spread the flu. Others are canceling surgeries and erecting tents in their parking lots so they can triage the hordes of flu patients.

“Those are all creative things we wouldn’t typically do, but in a crisis like this, we’re looking at,” said Michelle Gunnett, a nurse who oversees emergency services for a Southern California hospital system.

Staff members at Torrance Memorial Medical Center have been working long hours to care for a swell in sick patients that began in late December, said Dr. James McKinnell, infectious disease specialist. Some patients are incredibly ill with multiple strains of the flu, or the flu and pneumonia.

“There’s a little bit of a feeling of being in the trenches. we’re really battling these infections to try to get them under control,” McKinnell said. “We’re still not sure if this is going to continue … but it certainly is an inauspicious start.”

Coping with the crowds


Connie Cunningham and her staff at Loma Linda University Medical Center were triaging so many flu patients after New Year’s that they assembled what looks like a giant, brown camping tent in their emergency room parking lot. Several hospitals in California are treating flu patients in so-called “surge tents” intended for major disasters.

On a recent weekday morning, Cunningham walked through the tent, lined with folding chairs and patient beds that are separated by sheets hung from the ceiling.

Cunningham, executive director for the hospital’s emergency services, said she’d thought they would dismantle the tent after a few days, but staff are still treating 60 more patients each day than usual, she said.

“In my career, I’ve never seen anything like this,” she said.

H3N2 is known for being more virulent than other strains of the flu. Since October, 42 people in California younger than 65 have died of the flu, compared with nine at the same time last year, according to state officials. State officials collect flu death data only among people under 65; the actual death toll from the flu is much higher.

Officials say it’s unclear whether the recent upswing in cases means the season is peaking early or this year’s season is just particularly bad. Typically, the flu season, which runs from October through May, reaches its height in February.

“It’s like trying to surf a tsunami,” said Dr. Brian Johnston, an emergency medicine doctor at White Memorial Medical Center in Boyle Heights. “Maybe the wave has crested, one hopes.”

Palomar Medical Center Escondido in northern San Diego County also pulled out a flu tent this month, but was still so busy that some patients were treated in the hallways, said Gunnett, a nurse who oversees their emergency services.

Now they’re running low on beds because many patients were admitted with severe flu. Gunnett said she has started canceling scheduled surgeries and turning single-patient rooms into doubles to free up space.

At Good Samaritan Hospital in San Jose, hospital staff noticed flu cases were mounting and began clearing out an area that was being used as storage.

“It seems like we’re setting a record almost every day,” said Dr. Dave Feldman, medical director of the emergency department.

On Thursday, the former storage area opened as an extension of the emergency room.

‘A flu war zone’ in the emergency room
When Candysse Miller took her 88-year-old father, who lives in Redlands, to a nearby emergency room on Jan. 6, it was standing-room only. Many people crammed in the small space were sneezing and violently coughing, she said.

“It was like a flu war zone,” said Miller, a writer. “I’m not a germophobe or anything, but that will quickly make you one.”

Some administrators at hospitals with long wait times and crowded ERs have asked people who aren’t severely ill to not seek medical treatment. Others concerned about the spread of illness within their walls have also started restricting who can enter the hospital.

Dominican Hospital in Santa Cruz recently reintroduced rules they hadn’t used since the 2009 pandemic of swine flu, or H1N1. People under 16 — who are considered more likely to spread the flu — aren’t allowed to visit people at the hospital, and patients can have only one visitor at a time, said hospital president Dr. Nanette Mickiewicz.

“As we did during H1N1, we pulled out the same policies,” she said. “We’ve been treating almost five times the number of influenza patients that we typically see.”

Many hospitals also say they’re too full to accept any more patients or ambulances.

And when paramedics are allowed to drop off patients at a hospital, the emergency room is often so crowded that there aren’t available staff members to transfer care to. So the emergency responders can’t get back on the road to answer incoming 911 calls, said Kay Fruhwirth, L.A. County’s assistant director of emergency medical services.

“If there’s not a nurse available, and/or a bed — it’s usually an ‘and’ — they’re waiting there with the patient,” she said.

Healthy people get sick too
Children, elderly people and pregnant women are most at risk of becoming extremely ill if they get the flu, but anyone can get very sick, said McKinnell, of Torrance Memorial.

“We have patients every year — young, healthy patients — that end up in the hospital even on a ventilator for months because of influenza,” he said. “It would be foolish for people to think, ‘I’m 40, I’m healthy, I don’t need to worry about influenza’ — that’s not true.”

Doctors say that people who haven’t yet gotten the flu shot should still get it. It takes about two weeks to take effect.

National health officials predict the shot may only be 30% effective this year, though the vaccine can reduce the severity and length of the illness for those who get sick.

In L.A. County alone, “even a 30% effectiveness rate can prevent hundreds if not thousands of hospitalizations, and really save lives,” said the county’s interim health officer Dr. Jeffrey Gunzenhauser.

Already, so many patients have ended up in the Torrance Memorial ICU with the flu that caring for them has taken a toll on staff, McKinnell said.

“These people come in very, very sick,” he said. “There’s a lot of emotional stress that goes into that, because you care about your patients, you really want them to survive.”

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Health

Tea Time: Government Health Care Strikes Again

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Less than a year ago the vaunted “free” British government National Health Care Service (NHS) that is so admired by liberals here, killed 11 month old Charlie Gard when it refused to continue treating Charlie’s serious and likely terminal illness but worse, refused to allow his parents to take him to the United States at their expense where a couple of doctors believed they could give him a fighting chance. Charlie’s parent lost in their appeals to the British courts and even the UE Court of Human Rights and little Charlie lost his life.

This sad tale was recently repeated when 23 month old Alfie Evans who suffered from a neurodegenerative disorder and required assistance with ventilation and hydration died late last month after the NHS stopped treating him. The NHS determined that further treatment for the boy was “futile” which may be another way to say that they do not see a future return on their investment. The Pope had intervened and an Italian hospital offered to continue the boy’s treatment and the Italian government even offered him citizenship – all gallant efforts to give this young child a chance at life. Unfortunately none of these offers for help were ever utilized because once again the NHS refused to
release the boy to his parents and the British court system and the EU Court of Human Rights once again ruled in favor of government bureaucracy instead of in favor of life.

This episode is another warning for Republicans to repeal the smoldering remains of Obamacare and its internal potential death panel, the Independent Payment Advisory Board (IPAB). If you think my “death panel language is a bit over the top, let me remind you that it nearly happened here in 2013 when then Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius denied a much needed lung transplant for 10 year old Sarah Murnagham, because she was too young for the 12 year age limit the government had established. Fortunately, the public firestorm ultimately forced Sebelius to allow the surgery, but she did it because of the optics, not because it was right.

While it is true the Republicans dealt Obamacare a death blow with the elimination of the individual mandate they have not taken all of the possible actions to enable the private insurance market fill the varying needs of Americans which would make it easier for the federal government to largely get out of health care where it never belonged in the first place. The president remains ready to sign any reasonable repeal bill the Republican controlled congress will bring him, but after 16 months he is still waiting.

-Larry Wiwi for the Franklin County Tea Party

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Culture

California STD Cases Rise 45% In 5 Years

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Zerohedge Reports: Sexually transmitted disease (STD) cases have reached record-high numbers in California, the Los Angeles Times reports, as the ‘sharing’ economy goes viral.

In 2017, the number of California residents diagnosed with gonorrhea (over 13,000 cases), chlamydia (over 75,000 cases) or syphilis (over 218,000 cases) hit a consecutive three-year record, according to the California Department of Public Health.

The 300,000+ people diagnosed last year represents a 45-percent increase in STD cases since 2013.

Those most commonly affected by chlamydia and gonorrhea are under 30 years old. As The Sacramento Bee reports, “Rates of chlamydia are highest among young women, while men account for the majority of syphilis and gonorrhea cases.”

“While there are advocates and champions for cancer, nobody is out there saying, ‘I have gonorrhea and these are the best ways to treat it.’ There’s no one out there being a champion for these conditions,” said Klausner.

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Health

Britain Social Services Takes Away Baby From Elder Parents

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(Via The Sun)

A COUPLE have become Britain’s oldest new parents — only to have their baby taken from them by social services.

The 63-year-old mum and her partner, 65, are “devastated” after bosses stepped in and took the child from them.

The couple’s age is thought to be a factor in fears over the one-year-old’s well-being. A source said: “They are devastated.

Social services have been dealing with them since last year and told them to make improvements in how the child was being looked after.

“They then decided that the called-for improvements had not happened and took the child into care.”

The couple from the north of England had the baby using a surrogate mother in her 30s. She is believed to have been impregnated using the 65-year-old’s sperm and a donor egg.

The adoptive parents spent more than £100,000 on the procedure and used a clinic abroad as most in the UK would not deal with a couple their age.

The child’s British birth mother and her husband were named on the birth certificate, but they signed a parental order letting the older couple adopt.

Social services closely monitored the situation and, after the concerns were raised, the child was taken away and is thought to be in foster care.

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