Frederick Health Hospital Says It’s Ready For Increases In Patients With Respiratory Illnesses

It says it has been preparing for some time.

Frederick, Md (KM) Respiratory illnesses such as influenza, COVID and RSV are expected to bring more patients into hospitals this winter. Dr. Kathy Weishaar, Vice President of Medical Affairs and Chief Medical Officer for Frederick Health Hospital, says FHH is seeing a jump in patients with respiratory illnesses, especially children with RSV. “We’ve been preparing for this, prior to COVID,” she says. “This is a very typical thing that we’ve seen historically is the increase in respiratory virus over the winter, and we’ve been working with our staff pro-actively to prepare for it.”

RSV is respiratory syncytial virus which has has brought patients to  hospitals around the country. “That is a virus that we typically see in the small children populations. So like the infants and toddlers we tend to see it quite a bit in that population. It does seems to be a little bit more prevalent this year, and that’s driving some of the headlines you see across the country,” says Dr. Weishaar.

The virus can infect deep in the lungs, causing pneumonia. In babies, it  can impede their breathing by inflaming their airways. .

Dr. Weishaar says FHH has not seen any influenza cases yet, but there have been a few COVID cases. “Those numbers have been relatively consistent in the 10 and 20 range.    It bounces around a little bit. But we’ve found that overall the COVID patients are less sick than what they were at this time last year. So less individuals in the intensive care unit which is good news,” she says.

The symptoms of all three illnesses are fevers, chills, cough and runny nose. Sometimes, vomiting and diarrhea have been associated with the flu and COVID.

In preparing for the onslaught of respiratory illnesses during the winter, Dr. Weishaar says the staff at FHH has been working hard.  With reports across the county of hospital workers quitting due to the stress of handling COVID cases, Frederick Health Hospital has a 16-percent employee vacancy rate, which is below the national average, but significant. “But we’ve also been working on looking at different models so that we can make sure we can care for all patients in our community,”: she says. “Unlike some health systems and hospitals, we have not reduced capacity because of staffing. So we’re very mission driven to make sure that we’re able to care for the community and are meeting the  needs.”

There are reports of low morale and burnout among health care workers across the country. But Dr. Weishaar says FHH has been working to keep morale up among employees, even with all of the challenges in the health care profession in recent years. “We value our staff incredibly. We’ve been doing as much as we possibly can to make sure that we support them,” she says. “The effort with additional staffing and all of that are all done in part to support our staff.”

As the colder weather sets in, Dr. Weishaar strongly urges everyone to get their flu and COVID shots. “We know that the COVID vaccine is very safe and very effective. We know also that the flu vaccine is the same. That’s been around historically, and have seen good response to that. We also know that it’s safe to get both at the same time,” she said.

It also important that individuals who consider themselves healthy   get both vaccines. “What we’re most concerned about that is even the healthy individuals could then take {the virus}  to somebody who is vulnerable because it is quite contagious,” says Dr. Weishaar.

By Kevin McManus