Critical Condition

Flu victims are flooding into emergency rooms and discovering another health-care crisis there

The rush of cranky customers began around Christmas. Just as hordes of frazzled parents were descending on shopping malls, crowds of feverish, aching bodies were flooding the emergency department at Thunderbird Samaritan Medical Center outside Phoenix, Ariz., desperate for relief from this winter's nasty, widespread strain of flu. On many days, a couple of hundred patients, from wheezing senior citizens to crying babies in their weary mothers' arms, clogged the waiting room, sitting for up to six hours to see a doctor. It didn't take long for the 35 beds in Thunderbird's ED, and many on its other floors, to fill...

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