Children's hospitals still under pressure as RSV peak nears

Many children's hospitals are still grappling with capacity challenges amid an influx of patients with respiratory illnesses, even as the surge in respiratory syncytial virus appears to be slowing in some parts of the U.S.

RSV has likely peaked in the South and Southeast and may have plateaued in the Mid-Atlantic, New England and Midwest regions, CDC Director Rochelle Walensky, MD, said during a Dec. 5 media briefing. Nationwide, RSV hospitalizations have declined from a rate of 4.8 per 100,000 in the week ending Nov. 12 to 1.7 per 100,000 in the week ending Nov. 26, CDC data shows. 

Still, many children's hospitals in the West are struggling with high patient volumes. 

On Dec. 7, Oregon Gov. Kate Brown issued an executive order that allows hospitals to pull from a pool of volunteer nurses and physicians to help meet patient demand, among other actions. The state will also spend $25 million on nurse staffing contracts to help address workforce shortages.  

Providence Portland (Ore.) Medical Center activated crisis standards of care Dec. 2 in response to a surge of patients in its pediatric units. The move comes about a week after the state's three hospitals with pediatric intensive care units also enacted crisis standards of care, according to Oregon Public Broadcasting. Those facilities are OHSU Doernbecher Children's Hospital, Legacy's Randall Children's Hospital and Providence St. Vincent Medical Center, all in Portland. 

The New Mexico Department of Health also issued a public health emergency order Dec. 5 that requires all hospitals to participate in a "hub and spoke" model to facilitate patient transfers statewide. 

"This public health emergency order is necessary now as hospitals and emergency rooms are operating above their licensed capacity due to a surge in respiratory viruses and are now experiencing an unsustainable strain on healthcare providers," the department said, adding that the state is nearing a level of capacity strain that would justify the use of crisis standards of care.

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