As numbers for this year's influenza infections reach new heights, William Beaumont Army Medical Center has prepared for increased Emergency Department (ED) admissions by debuting temporary urgent care and after-hours clinics at WBAMC.

Hospital operations have also been reinforced with the addition of 15 medical personnel ranging from Registered Nurses to combat medics hailing from Medical Treatment Facilities (MTFs) as close as Carl R. Darnall Army Medical Center at Fort Hood, Texas to as far as Munson Army Health Center at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas.

"We've tried to mitigate (the volume of patients) here at WBAMC in a multitude of ways and it has impacted us in a multitude of ways," said Maj. Melanie Bowman, chief nurse, ED, WBAMC. "We've stood up an urgent care clinic and an after-hours clinic in the facility to help manage the volume of patients coming in through the ED."

In addition to the temporary clinics' debut, the increase in staff has provided additional relief to the ED by augmenting operations in the hospital's inpatient wards resulting in speedy inpatient discharges and bed availability for patients requiring inpatient care. Through a multidisciplinary approach, WBAMC has managed the influx of patients.

"We're seeing patients who present to the ED because they need to be seen today by a doctor but it may not be a life-threatening emergency," said Sgt. 1st Class Christian Rohde, noncommissioned officer in charge of WBAMC's Internal Medicine Clinic who oversees the operations of the acute care clinics. "We're seeing a whole lot of flu-like symptoms but not necessarily the flu, we're also seeing patients with cuts and scrapes little injuries that may be aren't life-threatening but it feels like an emergency (to the patient). It's helping to relieve that congestion in the ER, it's taken the wait times down in the ER much better wait times for less emergent cases but also allows them to get the emergent cases back quicker and seen faster."

"(The urgent care clinic) can book patients that meet the criteria for a primary care type of appointment versus an ED visit to get them seen more quickly and get them out of the hospital so they aren't subjected to other illnesses since their immune system is already down," said Bowman.

According to officials with the El Paso Public Health Department, the city has seen a rise in confirmed flu cases nearly eight times the number of cases reported at the same time in 2017. This increase has led to increased patient volume in WBAMC because of the inability to transfer out patients.

For the past few months, WBAMC's ED visits have constantly passed its intended capacity of 120 patients a day with over 180 visitors. The increase encompasses more than just flu cases to include patients needing emergent care.

"Shuffling those patients to urgent care, getting them into their primary care appointments has helped offload some of the volume the ED has absorbed from cold and flu season," said Bowman. "(WBAMC) has come together to make sure our patients have the safest most conducive environment to get them what they need."

"Every hospital is full," said Rohde, native of Fort Worth, Texas. "This is helping relieve some of that congestion, keep them out of the hospital keep them healthy and on their feet."

Soldiers and staff augmenting the hospital have assisted in various departments of the hospital to include the after-hours clinic. While the increase in flu-related illnesses has swamped the hospital's ED, officials are still encouraging good hygiene practice to mitigate the spread of germs.

"Part of being active duty is getting the flu vaccine. While we've vaccinated 100 percent of units here and at Fort Bliss, the flu vaccine doesn't cover every strand," said Bowman. "We've fought really hard to mitigate patient volume and spread of the flu here at our facility and to make sure the patients get the right care and to the right place."

Patients experiencing flu-like symptoms are encouraged to call WBAMC's central appointment line at 915-742-CARE (2273) to check for available appointments with their primary care teams.