Smog causes ED visits to double at California hospital

Megan Knowles - Print  | 

During the last three weeks, Kern Medical Center, Bakersfield Memorial Hospital and Adventist Health Bakersfield in Bakersfield, Calif., have seen surges in emergency room visits for respiratory-related ailments as smog hangs over the city, according to

Visits at Bakersfield Memorial Hospital's adult ER doubled from around 100 patients per day to over 200 patients, many of whom complained of respiratory issues, said Jessica Neeley, communications specialist for Bakersfield Memorial Hospital. The 426-bed hospital's pediatric emergency department saw a respiratory ailment rate of 150 to 175 patients a day, an increase from the department's average of about 100 visits per day.

"The quality of the air in general in Bakersfield is not good, and with the recent fires, even worse," said Ralph Garcia-Pacheco, MD, pulmonary and critical care physician at Kern Medical. "The pollution…can lead to exacerbation of chronic underlying respiratory disease and asthma."

Dr. Garcia-Pacheco is urging people to stay inside on days with poor air quality. The air quality is expected to return to "reasonable" levels on Saturday, said meteorologist Kevin Lynott.

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