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Flu surge leads to special clinic

Influx of flu cases means new options for some patients

Dr. John McDonald
Dr. John McDonald says there has been a steady stream of patients in the temporary flu clinic in Ashley River Tower. Photos by Helen Adams
Helen Adams | | January 12, 2018

Pent-up demand for medical care due to the recent snow storm that kept people from going to see their doctors, plus a surge in flu cases, has led to the opening of a temporary flu clinic at MUSC Health’s Ashley River Tower. Doctors hope that will ease the strain on the emergency department.

Danielle Scheurer is chief quality officer for MUSC Health. “We had an influx into our emergency department of confirmed flu cases and a huge influx from deferred care from snow, and we knew we were going to hit a mass capacity issue quickly.”

The Ashley River tower flu clinic opened at 8 this morning and will stay open until 8 p.m. It may open again in the coming days if needed. Primary care specialist John McDonald, who worked in the clinic today, said people were already waiting when it opened this morning.

Lawanda Anderson

Patient access supervisor Lawanda Anderson wears a mask while working in the flu clinic.
“We have open access. Anybody can come,” McDonald said. “Doesn’t matter what insurance they have. If they feel like they have respiratory infection and want to be seen, just come to the registration here and we’ll take care of them.”

Scheurer said the clinic is intended for people with flu-like symptoms who would otherwise have gone to the emergency department. “Preferably, people can go to an urgent care center or a primary care doctor they normally see.”

Her team realized yesterday that it needed to take immediate action and prepare for the possibility of a severe flu season. “We had 23 patients with flu hospitalized, and last week we had 106 emergency department-confirmed positive flu tests in a week.”

But she said most people who test positive do not need to be admitted to the hospital.

“If it’s run-of-the-mill flu, you feel bad and you’re achy and you don’t have a good appetite, stay hydrated. Don’t leave your house. Wash your hands. Try not to infect your household. And stay put for 24 hours after your last fever. You remain infectious for a long time even after you feel better.”

Symptoms that are cause for worry include confusion, lethargy and an inability to do daily tasks, Scheurer said. “If you can’t get up and go to the bathroom, just normal daily stuff, you’ve got to seek care. Or if you have severe shortness of breath. You shouldn’t be significantly short of breath with regular flu.”

Melanie Gavin, manager for infection prevention and control at MUSC Health, said plans are in place for expanding care for flu patients as needed. “If it becomes a huge surge, we’re looking at tents potentially or alternative maybe even the MUSC library, the first floor, to turn that into being a space. Depends on how big the surge is.”

The temporary flu clinic in Ashley River Tower is at 25 Courtenay Drive.

Some other MUSC Health Clinics will be open on Monday, a holiday, when they were scheduled to be closed, so more patients can be seen. People can call 843-792-7000 for appointment information.

Flu is shaping up to be a nasty one, CDC says (NPR, Jan. 12, 2018)

Flu season warning: Babies and children hit particularly hard this year (CBS News, Jan. 11, 2018)

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