A tsunami of sick people has swamped hospitals in many parts of the country in recent weeks as a severe flu season has taken hold. In Rhode Island, hospitals diverted ambulances for a period because they were overcome with patients. In San Diego, a hospital erected a tent outside its emergency room to manage an influx of people with flu symptoms.
Wait times at scores of hospitals have gotten longer.
But if something as foreseeable as a flu season — albeit one that is pretty severe — is stretching health care to its limits, what does that tell us about the ability of hospitals to handle the next flu pandemic?
That question worries experts in the field of emergency preparedness, who warn that funding cuts for programs that help hospitals and public health departments plan for outbreaks and other large-scale events have eroded the very infrastructure society will need to help it weather these types of crises.