Hospitals downwind of Southern California's wildfires are preparing for an onslaught of patients with respiratory problems starting this weekend as airborne debris exacerbates chronic conditions like heart and lung disease.
But they say they're ready for it because they are well stocked in anticipation of seasonal and H1N1 flu.
"Fortunately, we have the experience of preparing for influenza to help us with this," says James Lot, executive vice president of the Hospital Association of Southern California. "We're well stocked with respirators and masks and other supplies like that."
Lott says that hospitals—especially those immediately downwind of the fire lines, such as Citrus Valley Medical Center and Foothill Presbyterian Hospital—are being regularly surveyed and so far have not reported a surge in patients.