Medical care capacity for influenza outbreaks, Los Angeles

Emerg Infect Dis. 2002 Jun;8(6):569-74. doi: 10.3201/eid0806.010370.


In December 1997, media reported hospital overcrowding and "the worst [flu epidemic] in the past two decades" in Los Angeles County (LAC). We found that rates of pneumonia and influenza deaths, hospitalizations, and claims were substantially higher for the 1997-98 influenza season than the previous six seasons. Hours of emergency medical services (EMS) diversion (when emergency departments could not receive incoming patients) peaked during the influenza seasons studied; the number of EMS diversion hours per season also increased during the seasons 1993-94 to 1997-98, suggesting a decrease in medical care capacity during influenza seasons. Over the seven influenza seasons studied, the number of licensed beds decreased 12%, while the LAC population increased 5%. Our findings suggest that the capacity of health-care systems to handle patient visits during influenza seasons is diminishing.

MeSH terms

  • Disease Outbreaks*
  • Emergency Medical Services / statistics & numerical data
  • Emergency Medical Services / supply & distribution*
  • Female
  • Hospital Bed Capacity*
  • Humans
  • Influenza, Human / epidemiology*
  • Los Angeles / epidemiology
  • Male
  • Patient Transfer / statistics & numerical data
  • Pneumonia / epidemiology*
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Seasons