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Arkansas hospitals face staffing concerns amid flu season surge

Flu is spreading across Arkansas, putting more and more people in the hospital every week— multiple agencies are working to make sure hospitals can handle the surge.

ARKANSAS, USA — RSV cases are on the rise in Arkansas, but health experts also said not to forget about the flu— as those cases continue to climb.

“When we usually start to see influenza cases rise is more like late November in really into December,” said Dr.Joel Tumlison the Medical Director for Immunization at the Arkansas Department of Health.

Dr. Tumlison said that we're seeing that trend early this year.

“183 people hospitalized that we know about so far and with the last week that was recorded, were 52 of them,” said Dr. Tumlison.

The flu has also proven to be deadly in Arkansas this year, with 14 deaths reported to the health department.

"If it lasts this high in March there, will be you know, a whole bunch of people very ill with influenza for a long time,” added Dr. Tumlison.

On Tuesday, Arkansas Children’s Hospital told us that they haven't run into capacity problems. 

However, their biggest concern right now is staffing, specifically when it comes to nurses— and the Arkansas Hospital Association said that they aren't alone.

“This is actually one of the biggest concerns that we've heard consistently over the last year plus staffing,” said Melanie Thomasson, AHA Vice President of Data and Financial Policy.

Thomasson said that they're doing what they can to help Arkansas hospitals recruit more nurses, but she added that having enough has been an ongoing problem.

“Many counties in Arkansas have been health professional shortage areas for years,” said Thomasson.

The pandemic, along with the recent rise in RSV and flu cases, has only made it worse.

“Everyone is already having this great demand for health care services,” said Thomasson.

Sonia Lucas-Meyer, the owner of Arkansas Medical Staffing, agreed. 

She's been working for the last 15 years to make sure the state has enough nurses.

“We're continuously trying to recruit because they're, they're either overworked or there's not enough help,” said Lucas-Meyer. “I have 50 employees right now and I could probably use 10 or 15 more.”

Everyone hopes that these trends will decline and that staffing doesn't stay an issue for much longer.

“We really are trying to take a wide and long-term view of this because it is something that's going to be important in our state for decades to come,” said Thomasson.

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