ER growth may aid treatment

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Her dizziness and nausea don't feel minor, but LaShonda Martin was glad they landed her in a new minor treatment area of the emergency department of University Hospital.

"I like it," she said.

The new section should not only help cut down on wait times in the department but also might help the hospital respond to a heavy influx of flu patients, officials said. Across the area, hospitals and health officials are planning for an increase of the pandemic and trying to find ways to combat misinformation and share accurate tallies on flu-related deaths, including a regional Web site.

The changes at University were prompted by long wait times in the emergency department and the need to increase capacity, said Chief Operating Officer Jim Davis. The hospital punched through a wall into the old cath lab area next to the department to create a new waiting area and 12 minor treatment rooms, all in about 10 days, he said.

"That was a nice addition," he said.

The department also increased staff during peak hours, going from two to three physicians on duty, Mr. Davis said.

The increased capacity should help the hospital respond to heavier patient volumes, said Lynn Beaulieu, the director of emergency and medical services.

"We think we will be able to keep our main ED very operational and allow those patients with light symptoms to be triaged through here, cared for and screened," she said.

The hospital is doing other planning for a flu pandemic, said William Farr, University's chief medical officer. There are 14 isolation rooms, but there are other areas, such as a pediatric intensive care unit, that could be used, he said.

Most hospitals have a pandemic flu plan in place and are also doing regional planning. Trinity Hospital of Augusta, for instance, will start separating those who show up in its emergency room with flulike symptoms and ask them to wear a mask, spokeswoman Rachel Covar said in an e-mail.

Doctors Hospital also plans to separate those with flulike symptoms and ask visitors with such symptoms to wear a mask, spokeswoman Olena Scarboro said. It also plans to ask employees to get a free seasonal flu shot and the HIN1 vaccine when it is available, prioritizing the new vaccine first to direct patient-care staff, she said.

"Those who for some reason decline will have to wear a mask," Ms. Scarboro said.

Medical College of Georgia Hospital plans to create an entire flu ward once it gets enough patients, said James Wilde, a pediatric emergency medicine physician and a member of the state pandemic flu task force.

About 50 people gathered this week to talk about regional coordination among public health, hospitals and doctors and ways to better communicate, such as a Web site with "real time information," Dr. Wilde said.

One problem: Some people are being mistakenly told they have a "confirmed case of swine flu" after a rapid test at the doctor's office, Dr. Wilde said, when only a test at a state lab, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention or a commercial lab in California can truly confirm it. Even doing the confirmatory test doesn't make sense, he said.

"Because this virus is so far no more dangerous and maybe less dangerous than normal seasonal flu, it doesn't matter whether you have confirmed swine flu or not because we don't treat it any differently than we do normal seasonal flu," Dr. Wilde said.

MCG Hospital has decided not to test anybody who shows up with flulike symptoms, he said. Those who are otherwise healthy should not get antiviral medications, Dr. Wilde said.

"The only people who should be getting antiviral therapy are people who have the high-risk conditions," he said.

The hope is that by working together physicians, clinics and hospitals will be giving the same good treatment and information, Dr. Wilde said.

"What we've got is different information coming from different people, and it is confusing the heck out of the public," he said. "And our worry is as confusion goes up, anxiety is going to go up."

Reach Tom Corwin at (706) 823-3213 or


At a regional meeting on pandemic flu, a new Web site was conceived.

The group of physicians and hospital and public health officials from Georgia Hospital Association Region G decided to create G LINE, for Region G Local Information Network for Emergencies, said James Wilde, a pediatric emergency medicine physician at Medical College of Georgia Hospital and Clinics and a member of the state pandemic flu task force.

The group hopes to have something up in mid-September and present it to the public by Oct. 1.

The plan is to help combat misinformation by having updated information on local pneumonia- and influenza-related deaths, he said. The hope is also to have information on things such as the supply of antiviral medications in pharmacies and recommendations for physicians and for the public.


The novel influenza A H1N1 virus will make this an unusual and possibly difficult flu season for the area and the rest of the country. The Augusta Chronicle looks ahead to a flu season already under way and shares one family's experience with what some are calling the swine flu.

The Chronicle also lays out the difference between the two flu shots this year and provides expert recommendations on what you and your family should do this flu season.

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soldout 08/29/09 - 07:56 am
If you research flu shot

If you research flu shot results you won't take them. The last year that CDC has the numbers for only about 1600 died from the flu; not the 35,000 they talk about on the news. According to CDC children taking flu shots have a greater chance of dying than those who do not. People who have conditions that weaken them don't seem to be helped by flu shots. GlaxoSmithKline says clinical trials will be limited because it is needed quickly and additional studies will be made after people have taken it. In 1976 25 died from the shot and 1 from the flu while hundreds developed Guillian Barre Syndrome. Less than 100 children die each year from the flu. Are you ready for you and your children to be un-paid guinea pigs to test these flu shots. Cutting out sugar is best defense against the flu.

cricketflea 08/29/09 - 09:21 am
In 1976 the flu vaccine was

In 1976 the flu vaccine was being made from the flu virus. Now the flu vaccine is made from EGG PRODUCTS from what I understand. There is much LESS likely chance nowadays that you will contact the flu virus from the vaccine or get the flu once you take the vaccine than I, for one am totally FOR the vaccine!! I take it every year and urge all those around me to get it also.

FedupwithAUG 08/29/09 - 11:05 am
I get the flu shot every year

I get the flu shot every year too.. However I heard this years Swine Flu Vaccine will be a series of three shots.

donna658 08/29/09 - 11:06 am
Avoid sugar???? That is

Avoid sugar???? That is completely ridiculous. Information about vaccines from 1976 is completely irrelevant in 2009, the advances that have been made in all aspects of medicine make it irrelevant. I'm an RN and I get the flu vaccine and advocate it to others, I will get both vaccines this year. Certainly sugar is something to be eaten in moderation as is all food but it doesn't make you more susceptible to the flu.

soldout 08/29/09 - 07:56 pm
donna658 you might agree with

donna658 you might agree with me down the road. Vaccines are still just as dangerous as ever. If youall read research instead of drug ads you might get a different view. Flu shots also raise the chance for Alzheimers per research in the 90s.

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