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Amy Umble is health reporter for The Free Lance-Star

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Area hospitals are treating unusual numbers of patients

Hospitals in the region are busy with increased numbers of patients, though officials are at a loss to explain the surge.

All three area hospitals, including Stafford, have seen an unexplained surge in patient volume.

Higher-than-usual volumes began in late June or early July and have continued.

Tim Tobin, chief executive officer for the Spotsylvania Regional Medical Center, said this week that the hospital has been treating 80 to 85 admitted patients per day and higher-than-usual numbers in its emergency room.

“We had some amazing volumes last week,” Tobin said. “I’m not sure exactly what’s causing it.”

Mary Washington Hospital in Fredericksburg had 404 patients in its beds on June 22, and the hospital has stayed busy since then. Capacity at Mary Washington is 412 beds.

Stafford Hospital also has been busy, treating 60 to 70 admitted patients per day. The numbers there are almost double what the hospital saw at this time last year.

“We’ve definitely seen an increase in our census in the last month,” said Eileen Dohmann, vice president for nursing for Mary Washington Healthcare, parent company of both hospitals.

Some have speculated that the increase may be caused by the heat’s effect on those with chronic respiratory or cardiac problems. But Dohmann disagreed.

“It’s not one patient population,” she said. “The increase is really across the board.”

Hospital administrators are accustomed to seasonal changes in volume, Dohmann said. Winter, for example, is typically the busiest time of the year. August, on the other hand, is often the slowest month.

July can be busy too, but usually only for a brief period, Dohmann said. Doctors often schedule their patients for elective surgeries in July before going on vacation.

“The part that’s a little bit unexpected now is that it has stayed up,” she said. “It’s been sustained for a couple of weeks.”

Mary Washington’s census of admitted patients was 347 this morning, down from 388 on Tuesday. So, have the numbers peaked?

“You see 347 on a Thursday, and you say maybe it’s trailing off,” Dohmann said. “But after having done this for a long-enough time, you say, ‘No, I’ll watch.’ ”

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