Flu season & COVID-19; capacity concerns for local hospitals

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FORT SMITH, Ark. (KNWA/KFTA) – As the country continues to face the COVID-19 pandemic, health professionals are warning you that this year’s flu season may pose a double threat for your health.

Stephanie Whitaker with Baptist Health-Fort Smith said because of the number of flu patients the hospital sees-even when we’re not in a pandemic- staff members have been gearing up for this flu season for quite some time.

Whitaker said based on the COVID-19 predictions she’s seen, the current health crisis may get worse before it gets better. The timing shows it could get worse right in the middle of flu season, causing Whitaker and the Baptist Health-Fort Smith to prepare for what’s to come.

“We’ve onboarded new nurses additional nurses to care for patients we’ve opened up some care spaces that during the summer were not needed so we’ve opened up additional rooms within the hospital to address that,” she said. “I’ve seen some of those prediction models that it’s gonna get worse in February to March so just the ongoing planning, the diligence, this is a time we cannot let up on our safety precautions.”

The hospital will also send non-coronavirus patients to its sister hospital in Van Buren for additional space if needed.

Whitaker said it’s more important than ever to get your flu shot and to not stay away from the hospital if you need care because it could make your conditions even worse.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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