Today’s news:

On the Brink of a Crisis

Fate has proved the foolishness of closing two Queens hospitals. In March, St. John’s Queens Hospital in Elmhurst and Mary Immaculate Hospital in Jamaica were shuttered. In May, a shortage of emergency room capacity and hospital beds in the wake of the swine flu outbreak has put the borough on the brink of a healthcare crisis.

The remaining hospitals are doing what they can to keep up with patients coming into ERs with what they fear may be swine flu symptoms. The city Health and Hospitals Corp. reported a 20 percent increase in ER visits by adults and a 50 percent rise among children, with the largest increase at Elmhurst Hospital Center and Queens Hospital Center. At these hospitals, the surge in children coming to ERs is as high as 100 percent.

At Queens Hospital, a tent was erected outside of it to act as a field triage unit because there were so many patients. The tent was taken down the day after the story was reported across the nation.

An Elmhurst Hospital spokesman said the ER was inundated: “A busy day for our Pediatric ER Department used to be 250 patients a day. Now we’re seeing 350 on a regular basis.” On one day alone, the hospital treated a record 407 children and over 800 patients in total.

The city has asked people to stay home and not go to work or school if they believe they have swine flu symptoms. The city also asked these people not to report to a hospital ER unless symptoms become severe. If you cannot drink and are becoming dehydrated or if you cannot walk more than a few steps without falling down or fainting, consider going to the hospital.

That advice sounds risky, but we understand the need to keep hospitals from becoming overcrowded. Meanwhile, the ER staffs at all Queens hospitals have been working hard and deserve borough residents’ gratitude.

We were pleased to see Mayor Michael Bloomberg encourage people who may be in this country illegally to use hospitals and medical centers without fear.

There is hope the virus will soon die out, now that warmer weather has set in. We applaud those who have worked endless hours to treat the hundreds of patients coming to Queens hospitals.

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