Connecticut hospital CEO on pediatric mental health influx: 'This is our COVID surge'

Connecticut Children's Medical Center is overwhelmed by patients seeking mental health aid, the Hartford Courant reported Oct.6.

Children suffering the consequences and disruptions of the pandemic have experienced the emergence and exacerbation of a variety of mental health issues and sought help with their worried parents, according to the Courant.

"This is our COVID surge," James E. Shmerling, president and CEO of Children's, told the Courant.

Mr. Shmerling said that on Oct. 4, there were 43 patients in "Zone C" of the hospital which deals with urgent behavioral matters like self-harm and suicidal ideation.The week before, there were 47 children in Zone C. Over summer there are typically 15 to 16 patients in the unit, he said.

The patient surge is pushing the hospital to its limits, with waits for an inpatient psychiatric bed lasting up to a week. The hospital has hired 100 staff members this year alone to work in Zone C, but space remains the key issue. To ease pressure, the Connecticut Department of Public Health is working with the hospital to potentially transfer some of the older patients to other hospitals with capacity and the appropriate psychiatric services.

"If we can just reduce the demand for the older patients, that might have better alternatives; that takes the pressure off us, so we can take care of the younger kids," Mr. Shmerling said.



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