The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) predicts that this year’s flu season will equal or surpass 2014–2015, when 34 million people across the nation experienced flu symptoms, including 710,000 who were hospitalized.

At association member Grady Memorial Hospital, not far from CDC’s Atlanta headquarters, the flu outbreak has pushed the emergency department (ED) to 120 percent of capacity, a status not expected to change soon — CDC says flu patient volumes are expected to increase for at least two more months.

In response to this, Grady has deployed a mobile ED unit. The state-of-the-art medical unit, owned by a North Carolina company, typically is used after disasters or during hospital renovations. It is costing Grady about $200,000 to rent the mobile unit for 30 days, not including supplies.

Inside Grady Memorial Hospital’s mobile emergency department unit, brought in to help handle an influx of patients during flu season.

The unit, parked outside the hospital’s ED, includes 14 beds. Hospital leaders hope it will treat up to 100 ambulatory patients each day and free up hospital ED space for acute-care patients. 

In addition to bringing in the mobile unit, Grady is limiting visitors ages 14 and younger, as well as adults with flu-like symptoms, to help prevent spread of the flu. Grady also is making hand sanitizer and face masks available to hospital visitors. 

As the flu season heats up nationwide, the vital services that essential hospitals provide will only become more important.