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Elkhart hospital 'overwhelmed' with flu patients

Doctors and nurses working overtime, but haven't had to turn anyone away

January 09, 2013|By Ted Land (, Click here to friend Ted on Facebook | WSBT-TV
WSBT/Ted Land

A doctor at Elkhart General Hospital says his staff is “overwhelmed” with flu patients in a season that’s turning out to be one of the worst he’s seen in years.

“Some days are absolutely horrible, and some days are just awful,” said Dr. David Van Ryn, an emergency physician with three decades of experience.

He said he’s been treating about 30-40% more people than during a normal period outside of the flu season. Most of the patients are stricken with seasonal influenza or complications from the virus, Van Ryn said.

“I think the national statistics are suggesting that this is the worst in about 10 years and that's the way it feels to us,” he said, comparing the 2012-2013 flu season to that of 2009, during the swine flu (H1N1) pandemic.

Staff are working extra hours just to keep up, Van Ryn said.

In some larger cities, like Chicago, crowded hospitals have had to turn new patients away, because there's just no room to treat them.


They haven't had to do that in Elkhart, but they've come close.

“We did have a point last week where our ICU was closed for part of the day just because there were so many sick patients in the intensive care unit,” said Van Ryn.

A spokesperson for Memorial Hospital in South Bend said they haven't had to turn anyone away, though they are asking people with the flu to please not visit other patients.

Memorial has seen 150 confirmed cases of Influenza A and 10 cases of Influenza B since November. No deaths were reported at the hospital, the spokesman said.

A representative for St. Joseph Regional Medical Center was unavailable for comment.

Ten people in Indiana have died from the flu this season. There have been four deaths in Michigan.

While having a flu shot certainly helps, it's by no means a guarantee you won't get sick.

“We're seeing an unfortunate number of people who've had the injection in appropriate time frames and they're still getting sick,” said Van Ryn.

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