A high number of flu-related cases Sunday caused an overflow of patients at North Arundel Hospital and forced county paramedic units to bypass the Glen Burnie hospital for others in the area.
At a time when 78 beds were open, 101 people arrived at North Arundel's emergency room, more than 60 of them complaining of respiratory problems stemming from influenza, said Kevin Murnane, a spokesman for the hospital.
"As people come into the ER, it takes time to diagnose them and treat them, and if there are no beds, we have to do a lot of shuffling," Murnane said. "We were really crowded that day."
Battalion Chief J. Gary Sheckells, an Anne Arundel County Fire Department spokesman, confirmed that for about three hours Sunday, the department bypassed the hospital, ordering paramedic units to take patients to Anne Arundel Medical Center in Annapolis and Harbor Hospital Center in South Baltimore.
Sheckells said such a bypass is standard when it takes more than 30 minutes for emergency personnel to transfer a patient from the stretcher to a hospital bed.
"The end result is faster time to get patients the care they need," he said. "It's in the best interest of the patient."
Despite the crowding, Murnane said, no patient went untreated. Three physicians, a physician's assistant and five extra nurses were on duty, and other nurses pulled double shifts, he said.
"Whoever come to the ER gets seen and treated accordingly," Murnane said. "We're doing everything possible to treat everybody as soon as possible."
Influenza is an acute viral respiratory illness. Recovery requires two to seven days.
Murnane said January and February are the busiest months for the flu because the stress of the holidays and contagious nature of the virus wreak havoc on the body's immune system.
"It's everyone getting sick at the same time," he said. "Most hospitals are inundated at this time.
Intestinal and respiratory viruses causing flulike symptoms swept through the Baltimore area last month, prompting three Roman Catholic schools in the city to cancel classes.
More than 135 teachers in the 2,770-teacher Howard County school system called in sick.
The season's first case of influenza in Maryland was confirmed in a 17-year-old in Anne Arundel County in mid-October.
Pub Date: 1/08/97