Like many facilities across the country, Mercy Hospital in Fort Smith, AR wrestles with overcrowding in the emergency room, especially during flu season. In addition to higher patient volume, resources are further stretched due to staff calling in sick in greater numbers. The administration is dealing with the crisis by employing all available resources, including making the most of the flexibility of the urgent care model. Mercy has dedicated one location specifically to patients presenting with flu-like symptoms; this not only allows them to be seen faster, but also keeps them out of the ED—where they don’t belong, and where they could infect other patients. Mercy has employed local media and social media to educate the community on that point, specifying that only select patients—the elderly, young children, pregnant women, and people with certain chronic conditions—should go to the ED with suspected influenza. People are getting the message, apparently, as that location has seen more than a thousand patients for seasonal flu this year.
Mercy Stresses the Urgent Care Option as ED Volume Swells