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RRH at capacity as COVID, RSV, flu collide

Ridgecrest Regional Hospital (RRH) – Although this is not the first time during the pandemic that California hospitals have been at capacity, this time healthcare officials are noting intersecting surges of COVID, RSV (Respiratory Syncitial Virus) and influenza as the driving influence.

“In the past we have raised awareness on this issue during COVID spikes, but this time it’s a little different,” said Stephanie Meeks, emergency and regulatory compliance manager at Ridgecrest Regional Hospital. “Although we are not seeing the same alarming infection rates for any one illness, we are juggling three different threats at once.”

This has prompted an inordinately high volume of patients to seek diagnosis and treatment in urgent care centers and emergency departments. 

“Typically, when we have very sick patients in need of a higher level of care, we transfer them to one of the nearby hospitals that specializes in trauma, strokes, heart disease, etc.,” said Meeks. “Now those hospitals are full, so we are trying to keep patients stable in our emergency department while we wait for a bed to open up. That unfortunately limits the number of new patients we can see.”

“If you are having trouble breathing, if you have a very high fever, if you are in immediate need of care, you should absolutely seek treatment,” said Meeks.

“But we are not a COVID test center. If you are just wanting a swab, the emergency room is not the best place for that.”

One of the unfortunate results of the increase in demand are long waits in Emergency Departments and urgent care centers, as patients flood in seeking diagnosis and treatment.

“In the past we have asked people to save the ER for emergencies, and we are here to meet all of the emergent needs,” said Meeks.

For individuals experiencing symptoms for heart attack, stroke, serious injury or other medical issues that require immediate attention, the Emergency Department remains the right place to seek treatment.

For lower-risk medical issues, including mild illnesses, patients should visit urgent care or contact their primary providers.

The free government COVID test kits, which are also available for purchase at some drug stores, are the best way to screen COVID in cases of low or mild symptoms. 

“I appreciate those in the community who continue to take precautions, and who have extended patience and grace to our hard-working staff,” said Meeks.