LUBBOCK, TX (KCBD) - Lubbock hospitals are being forced to turn away patients as the nationwide flu epidemic has them running out of beds.
Dr. Craig Rhyne is the regional chief medical officer for Covenant Health.
"Many times when a hospital has reached capacity, in other words, it physically has no more beds to put patients in, the only right thing to do is to go on diversion," Dr. Rhyne says.
"It makes no sense at all for any hospital that has physically exhausted its bed capability to continue to bring patients in, that we're not really able to provide the very best care for."
With patients being turned away, many are asking about the immediate attention their loved ones need, and what to expect if they need urgent care.
Dr. Rhyne says, "We try to take those patients who have time-sensitive conditions: trauma, stroke, heart attack, those types of cases we have to deal with on a case to case basis. Those are time-sensitive issues that we don't have time to say we won't take that, and go three to four hours away, or six hours away to another metropolitan area. Those things that are truly time-sensitive we have to be able to absorb and take care of, and that's true for every hospital in the region."
That extra moving though, could end up costing you more. Dr. Rhyne says it will most likely not increase your insurance rates, but patients could see a fee from EMS agencies for the extended transportation.
One of the reasons for the lack of beds?
"There have been a lot of small rural hospitals that are closing," Rhyne says, "so the number of hospital beds in the region around us are actually shrinking in number to the point where were are being asked to taken in more and more patients from a broader area. I think that is also contributing to the crisis with diversion."
But the flu is also causing the hospitals to go on diversion which is why Dr. Rhyne says those without serious symptoms, should stay home.
"We encourage patients who have the flu, but that are not critically ill, to stay home. There's not a lot that we can do in the hospital for flu patients. Clearly those patients that are having incipient or impending respiratory arrest need to be in the hospital for those purposes, but general flu cases don't need to be hospitalized."
Dr. Rhyne says urgent care centers could also help you get seen quicker, and for less money.
"Urgent care centers are far much more effective and faster for their care then coming to the emergency department, because when we're on diversion, a lot of things back up in our emergency department and the waits can be long," Rhyne said, "They can actually receive faster and more appropriate care, at less expense in one of our urgent care centers that can provide the same care, in a much shorter time frame in a much more cost-effective manner."