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Parkland Addressing Patient Influx

Parkland Hospital is focused this week on ways to deal with higher than normal emergency room volume. KERA’s BJ Austin says the Dallas County Hospital wants to avoid a repeat of last week’s “red alert” – when patients had to be diverted to surrounding hospitals.

Parkland’s Interim CEO Dr. Thomas Royer expects to see the recent peak demand for emergency room treatment continue.

Royer: I would be surprised if this lessens itself through February and early March because we usually start to see the flu season in late January, early February.

Dr. Royer says widespread flu is not here yet, so it’s not causing the current increase in ER visits. He suspects some of it could be pent up demand for medical care left untreated during the holidays; or maybe a change in benefits, like unemployment or Medicaid. But Dr. Royer says it is unusual. He says the Parkland clinics are working on a way to take some pressure off the ER.

Royer: Typically you do clinics by appointment, but we’re saying okay why don’t we keep five hours every day or four hours for just walk-ins – maybe an hour every other hour so if they walk-in, we can see than also. If you can access your care through one of our clinics, we would like you to do that.

Dr. Royer says he’s talking with surrounding hospitals about how to handle the high ER numbers. It’s a sensitive issue because most Parkland patients can’t pay. Dr. Royer says a “red alert” because of lack of hospital bed space is rare. ER doctors saw 110 more patients last Thursday than they did the same day a year ago.

Former KERA reporter BJ Austin spent more than 25 years in broadcast journalism, anchoring and reporting in Atlanta, New York, New Orleans and Dallas. Along the way, she covered Atlanta City Hall, the Georgia Legislature and the corruption trials of Louisiana Gov. Edwin Edwards.