Multiple Causes of Respiratory Disease Stresses the Health Care System to Its Limits

Health Care System:Β  After years of dealing with COVID-19, everyone is ready for a break. Unfortunately, the coronavirus is not yet finished with us, and health officials are warning of a severe flu season and an outbreak of the respiratory syncytial virus.

Multiple Causes of Respiratory Disease Stresses the Health Care System to Its Limits

Young children are particularly vulnerable to the respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), one of many viruses currently circulating. Because of this, medical facilities in the states of Washington and Oregon are at capacity.

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It’s gotten so bad that local children’s hospitals have gone into crisis mode to treat all the kids who need care. In addition, waiting times to be seen by doctors and nurses in emergency departments are quite long.

Clark County Public Health Director Dr. Alan Melnick has stated, “In Clark County, we are seeing a big increase in respiratory sickness, and it has gotten to the point where it is having an impact on our local urgent centers and hospitals.”

The effects can be seen at PeaceHealth Southwest Washington Medical Center, where up to 380 people are being cared for at a hospital that normally sees between 280 and 310, and where the emergency room, which usually sees between 120 and 130 patients, is now holding up to 42 patients.

We’re opening up new units and getting plenty of help from the hospital to treat patients in other parts of the building, so we’re seeing them wherever we can. However, as Dr. Jason Hanley pointed out, “at some point, there are just a lot of individuals needing care at once.”

Multiple Causes of Respiratory Disease Stresses the Health Care System to Its Limits
Multiple Causes of Respiratory Disease Stresses the Health Care System to Its Limits

The emergency room’s medical director at PeaceHealth Southwest was quite pleased with his staff’s response to the increased patient volume. However, public health experts assure us that there is the action we can take to help.

The Department of Public Health in Clark County urges residents to be vigilant and adopt preventative measures to limit the spread of disease. Vaccinations are the first step. Melnick stresses the importance of maintaining a full vaccination and booster schedule for influenza and COVID-19 for all eligible individuals.
Noticing a doctor to get vaccinated doesn’t strike me as out of the ordinary “As Melnick put it. “It can be done in a short amount of time with minimal effort, and it is extremely secure.

Melnick suggested treating minor symptoms of a respiratory ailment at home first. If your symptoms don’t improve or get worse, you should call your primary care physician or go to an urgent care center.

Melnick emphasized the importance of seeking emergency care if you or your child were experiencing breathing difficulties.

RSV has a particularly negative impact on infants and toddlers, yet there is currently no vaccination available to prevent it. Doernbecher at OHSU and Legacy’s Randall Children’s Hospital are both at crisis levels due to this and the other infections.
According to Dr. Jennifer Vines, the Multnomah County health officer, “our two pediatric hospitals are in crisis care,” which gives them more leeway with staffing and space so they don’t have to turn away patients or have to limit interventions for patients, but is nonetheless a sign of “real distress” in hospitals and health systems generally that she fears will get worse before it gets better.

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Vaccinations are another method of disease prevention and reduction that Vines advocates for heavily. Further, since RSV may live on hard surfaces, it’s essential to disinfect frequently touched areas and practice thorough hand hygiene.

Dr. Vines noted that, although it may be unpopular to hear, it is best for individuals to wear masks in public until the situation improves. Those at the highest risk should stay away from crowds as much as they can.

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