Introduction The 2009 H1N1 influenza pandemic created a surge of patients with low-acuity influenza-like-illness (ILI) to hospital Emergency Departments (EDs). The development and results of a tiered surge plan to care for these patients at a Pediatric Emergency Department (PED) were studied.
Hypothesis/Problem By providing standard assessment and treatment algorithms within physically separate ILI Extension Areas, it was hypothesized that patient care could be streamlined and the quality of care maintained.
Methods Hospital administrators created the tiered H1N1 surge plan within the framework of the existing emergency operations plan (EOP). After the initial expansion of space and staff utilization within the existing PED footprint, ILI Extension Areas were opened and staffed by non-ED physicians and nursing to provide care rapidly for ILI patients after Registered Nurse (RN) screening. Volumes, length of stay (LOS), left without being seen (LWBS) rates, patient satisfaction, and costs were tracked and measured.
Results Significantly elevated volumes of patients were seen in the months of September and October of 2009 (42.0% and 32.7% increase over 2008). During this time, 612 patients were triaged to the ILI Extension Areas. The LOS was similar to that experienced in prior years. The LWBS rates in September (4.8%) and October (3.4%) were slightly elevated over the 2009 yearly average (3.2%), but remained lower than during a prior, high-volume month. Satisfaction, measured as patients’ “likelihood to recommend,” remained within the range observed during other parts of the year. Cost estimates indicate favorable financial performance for the institution.
Conclusion The tiered surge response plan represented a success in managing large volumes of low-acuity patients during an extended period of time. This design can be utilized effectively in the future during times of patient surge.