Monday, two of Rockford three hospitals reached full capacity. When that happens, administrators declare "diversion." That means the three health systems then have to work together to treat patients.
Rockford Memorial Hospital alerted ambulances of diversion last week and Monday afternoon. Then, for the first time in five years, it happened to Swedish American Hospital later in the evening. Administrators blame the season.
"The current flu epidemic we're experiencing in Rockford, in Illinois and in the United States is what's driving some institutions to go on diversion." -says OSF St. Anthony Medical Center President & CEO David Schertz.
Swedish American's Chief Medical & Quality Officer Kathleen Kelly agrees, "Patients with chronic illness, many of them have been tipped over to more serious situations because of the flu that's in the community. We also have many elderly individuals and winter time tends to be a time when we see more hospitalization."
Swedish American employees have seen high patient numbers for about a month. Monday night, there were no beds left for patients. People and ambulances were redirected to the only option, OSF St. Anthony. OSF stayed out of diversion territory Monday with about five beds to spare.
"We think we've done a pretty effective job of case managing, good communication with our physicians and we tend to do more surgical activity which is shorter lengths of stay, which gives us more capacity because of more frequent turnover." -says Schertz.
Even though Swedish American and RMH had to turn patients away, Schertz says proximity outweighs capacity.
"If an ambulance has a critically ill patient and they're right next to your hospital, they're going to come to you to at least stabilize that patient."
Both RMH and Swedish American went off of diversion Tuesday morning around dawn. Had all three institutions filled up, then there can't be diversion, everyone opens their doors and treats patients who come in. When a hospital goes on diversion, Schertz explains the Illinois Department of Public Health monitors that institution. There has to be reconciliation; hospital administrators have to explain to the Department of Public Health why diversion was necessary.
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