FORT SMITH, Ark. — To keep flu sufferers from clogging its emergency room, a Fort Smith hospital has opened a separate clinic to keep non-emergency patients away.

The president of Mercy Clinic, Dr. Cole Goodman, said the emergency room at Mercy Fort Smith is “bursting at the seams” with waits of up to 10 hours. He told The Times Record that about 60 percent of recent emergency room cases have been flu-related, but flu isn’t always an emergency.

Still, people should seek emergency care if they have fast breathing, difficulty breathing or shortness of breath, pain or pressure in the chest or abdomen, sudden dizziness, confusion, severe or persistent vomiting, bluish skin color and fever with a rash.

The Sparks Health System said the flu is dangerous for young children, adults over 65, pregnant women and people with chronic conditions.

The Arkansas Health Department said three dozen people have died in Arkansas from the flu since October.

Author photo
The AP is one of the largest and most trusted sources of independent newsgathering. AP is neither privately owned nor government-funded; instead, as a not-for-profit news cooperative owned by its American newspaper and broadcast members, it can maintain its single-minded focus on newsgathering and its commitment to the highest standards of objective, accurate journalism.