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'Surge plan' helps hospitals deal with flu

'Surge plan' is designed to manage patients outside the hospital

MARLTON, N.J. | January 15, 2013

Four New Jersey hospitals, express urgent care centers and affiliated physicians are coping with flu patients with their "surge" plan, officials say.

Virtua, a comprehensive healthcare system involving four hospitals in Southern New Jersey, designed the plan to manage patients outside the hospital to keep the hospital emergency rooms from being overwhelmed, NJbiz.com reported.

Dr. James Dwyer, chief clinical officer of Virtua, told NJbiz.com: "We've developed the capability of managing patients outside of the hospital. All of these access points have become very, very challenged from the volumes with the flu activity, but the good news is, because of the size of the system and because of the multiple access points we've developed, we've been able to figure out ways to spread this surge across a larger base than managing it just through the emergency department."

By treating flu patients in doctor's offices and clinics, the hospital emergency room can treat other medical emergencies and severe influenza.

Dr. John Matsinger, chief medical officer of Virtua, said each of the locations set up separate flu-response areas with common elements such as segregated waiting rooms -- ordinarily used to "fast-track" minor injuries or sicknesses -- to move patients out of waiting areas and the emergency rooms to make space for new patients.

Matsinger and Dwyer said they've never seen patient volumes as high as they have this winter, but they were prepared because of their system's surge plan developed after Sept. 11, 2001.

The software MedMined analyzed infections to predict future patterns allowing the hospitals to adjust procedures proactively and protect patients and employees from illnesses such as the flu, the doctors said.

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