(NewsNation) — A surge of COVID-19, respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) and flu is sweeping the nation — and straining hospitals and doctor’s offices.
Health officials have deemed this a “tripledemic,” with many places considered to have “high” COVID-19 levels by the CDC, as well as much increased flu activity compared to past seasons.
One of the hardest-hit areas is Southern California. Martin Luther King Jr. Community Hospital in Los Angeles has seen a constant influx of patients. Hallways are sometimes impassable — even on a slow day.
Gilbert Nickles, assistant nurse manager at MLK Jr., said the hospital can sometimes see upward of 40 people in one hour. Numbers-wise, he said, it’s even worse than COVID-19.
“They’re coming here, they’re scared, they’re worried,” Nickles said. “They hear about it on the news, they’ve seen people get really sick, and so they’re just flooding in here.”
This hospital’s emergency department was built to accommodate about 100 people a day. Lately, they’re seeing quadruple that number. A regular line of ambulances outside almost mirrors a line of gurneys in the hallway inside.
“We don’t have the space inside to do what we normally used to do,” Nickles said. “This is the new norm for us.”
Now, triage tents outside are semi-permanent, and a gift shop has been converted into a treatment area.
A nursing shortage that never went away only adds to the challenge.
“Everyone is pressed,” Nickles said. “I know people who work at many other hospitals and clinics and there are just shortages everywhere.”
Martin Luther King Jr. Community Hospital serves some of the LA residents who are most in need.
“Just like this neighborhood is a food desert, it is very much a health care desert as well, so people do come here for primary care,” Nickles said.
There are a total of 29 beds in MLK Jr.’s emergency department. For the whole year, the hospital is on track to see a total of 115,000 emergency patients.
“The numbers definitely wear us down — having to consistently hold to that level and always the demands of what our standards are,” Nickles said. “It’s just hard to see that many people in one day.”