ENC hospitals brace for possible surge in flu, COVID patients


NEW BERN, N.C. (WNCT) — Hospitals across the country are filling up with COVID-19 and non-COVID patients.

As we get closer to the height of flu season, doctors are faced with another challenge: the omicron variant. Healthcare workers in Eastern North Carolina are preparing for a possible surge in the coming weeks.

“It’s normally a busy season around Christmas, New Year’s, sometimes a little after because influenza by itself,” said Dr. Ronald May, vice president of medical affairs at CarolinaEast Medical Center. “Now when we have COVID and influenza, the potential is quite significant for overwhelming hospital systems.”

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Hospitals in our region are bracing for what could be another surge of patients. CarolinaEast is already discussing how to handle the influx.

“We don’t know what will happen, but if we wait until it happens, we’ll already be behind,” said May. “We talked (Monday) morning about starting to make plans of how we can deal with the different things we’ll have to deal with.”

May said he hasn’t seen many flu cases so far this season.

“It’s very early,” he said. “We’ve only seen a few isolated cases, but it is early. Typically, we tend to see it after the Christmas holidays and after the first of the year.”

Right now, there are only a few cases of the omicron variant in Eastern North Carolina.

“We’re fortunate we haven’t seen it much in North Carolina yet, although it’s here,” said May. “But if what we’re seeing in other parts of the country is reflective of what we’re going to see here, it will happen very quickly over a period of just the next few weeks.”

May said getting vaccinated and practicing COVID protocols can help take the stress off the healthcare system.

“Separation, at least six feet apart, particularly inside, not being in crowded environments, wearing masks with people who you know are not vaccinated,” he said.

May said his employees are tired but ready for any possible surge coming. May is asking people to be supportive and patient during these stressful times.

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