Burbank firefighters and paramedics have responded to a higher-than-
usual number of calls from locals reporting flu symptoms, which in
turn has overwhelmed local hospital emergency rooms.
With the number of reported flu cases on the rise, and more and
more and patients seeking emergency medical attention, Providence St.
Joseph Medical Center and other area hospitals have had to turn away
patients transported by paramedics because they have reached their
capacity, Burbank Fire Marshal Dave Starr said.
Fire trucks and ambulances have been adversely affected because
they have to take patients to the nearest available hospital when a
local hospital’s emergency rooms is closed to paramedic drop-offs,
Starr said. Given the latest flu scare, rescue vehicles often travel
to hospitals in Pasadena or Tarzana, he said.
“When we take in people with serious problems, [paramedics] can’t
get to them immediately,” he said. “And it’s slowing down the
ambulance response time because it’s taking longer to complete the
calls from the backlog at the emergency room.”
Media reports of fatal flu cases and short supplies of vaccines
have contributed to the overcrowding at local hospitals, along with
people who either don’t understand the health-care system or
purposely abuse it, Starr said.
“The 911 system, emergency transports and emergency rooms are
designed to deal with major illnesses and trauma, and instead they
are backlogged with more routine medical cases,” he said. “People
should be going through the system another way.”
Providence St. Joseph Medical Center has seen an increase in
emergency room patients from about 150 to 200 on weekdays, and from
about 160 to about 230 on weekends, said Stephen Kishineff, an
emergency room physician.
Physicians can administer antiviral medicine if the flu has been
contracted within 24 hours, but more patients don’t seek medical help
until they’ve had it for at least two days, Kishineff said. At that
point, physicians can’t do more than recommend patients take
over-the-counter cough medicine, drink lots of fluid and rest five to
“We are sending home the vast majority of people with the flu
because we don’t have much to offer them,” he said.