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Fresno County Wants People to Stay Away from Emergency Rooms Unless Absolutely Necessary
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By Edward Smith
Published 4 months ago on
December 18, 2023

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The Fresno County Department of Public Health warned Monday that a “historic number of admitted patients” have impacted local hospital emergency departments.

The need has forced Community Regional Medical Center in downtown Fresno to permanently close its Pediatric Intensive Care Unit, transitioning the beds to serve adults in need of intensive care, the hospital said.

Sharp increases in respiratory viruses are exacerbating the demand on local hospitals. People with respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), influenza, and COVID-19 are straining the hospitals, officials said.

Public Health is asking people with non-emergency health needs to go to clinics, physician’s offices, and urgent care centers.

“We need everyone’s help to slow down the number of people using the emergency room for non-emergency medical issues,” said Dan Lynch, director of Fresno County Medical Services.

Patients Waiting for Rooms Spill Into Any Space Available

With hospitals operating at 20% to 40% over capacity, patients are forced to wait in conference rooms and non-patient areas before they can find a bed, county officials said.

Wait times at emergency departments regularly exceed 10 hours for patients not experiencing medical emergencies. Ambulances have to wait up to two hours before patients are turned over to hospitals.

If conditions don’t improve, the county warns, hospitals may have to temporarily divert patients until it is safe to reopen.

The 10-bed unit at CRMC is the only unit dedicated to Pediatric Intensive Care in Fresno. Valley Children’s Hospital in Madera County is the nearest with 42 PICU beds, according to the California Department of Health Care Access and Information. Valley Children’s has 358 total patient beds.

Community Health System closed the unit due to low pediatric patient volumes. Children taken there will now be admitted to the hospital’s adult ICU.

“With the continued high volume of patients in need of critical care in our region, it makes good sense to transition these underutilized beds to treat adult ICU patients without sacrificing specialty services or bed capacity,” said Danny Davis, chief clinical and operations officer with Community Health System.

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Edward Smith,
Multimedia Journalist
Edward Smith began reporting for GV Wire in May 2023. His reporting career began at Fresno City College, graduating with an associate degree in journalism. After leaving school he spent the next six years with The Business Journal, doing research for the publication as well as covering the restaurant industry. Soon after, he took on real estate and agriculture beats, winning multiple awards at the local, state and national level. You can contact Edward at 559-440-8372 or at Edward.Smith@gvwire.com.

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