Hospitals' flu response highlights cracks in US's emergency infrastructure

Hospitals are strained for resources, space and staff members amid the 2017-18 flu season, highlighting the U.S. healthcare system's lack of preparedness for a mass pandemic or other medical emergencies, according to NBC News.

While the U.S. is experiencing a moderately severe flu season, the demand for healthcare and supplies remains consistent each year. However, hospitals nationwide have still been forced to set up extra triage tents, divert ambulances and ask staff members to work double shifts to deal with the influx of flu patients this season.

Hospitals also regularly experience spot shortages of flu treatments, like Tamiflu, and saline solution, which significantly worsened this year after Hurricane Maria shut down manufacturing operations in Puerto Rico.

"Each year, the healthcare system gets a thinner and thinner veneer of preparedness," Mike Osterholm, PhD, director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis, told NBC News. "It takes less and less impact for a healthcare system to go from routine to crisis."

Many health, national security and political experts have pointed out shortfalls in the United States' emergency infrastructure, yet emergency preparedness budgets are regularly slashed, public health workers are fired and Congress ignores pleas to boost funding, according to the report.

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