Children's Hospitals Prepare for Surge in RSV Admissions
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Children’s hospitals across the country are preparing for a surge in pediatric admissions with expected increases in respiratory infections, including Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV), Covid and flu.
“We’re expecting another surge in RSV cases, which could lead to a strain on our nation’s network of children’s hospitals and health systems as they near bed capacity,” says Matt Cook, CEO of the Children’s Hospital Association (CHA). “Children’s hospitals are working with community hospitals and other health systems to help manage pediatric beds, equipment and medicine supplies as well as pediatric workforce staffing, but undoubtedly there will be capacity challenges this fall and winter.”
RSV can be dangerous for infants and young children, with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimating 58,000-80,000 children younger than five years are hospitalized due to a RSV infection each year. Treating children requires specialized pediatric equipment, doses of medicine, as well as physicians and nurses trained specifically to care for children.
“As communities across the U.S. face a critical pediatric provider shortage, it’s vital that we ensure our nation’s children and their families in rural and urban communities have access to the health care and specialists they need,” says Cook. “Unfortunately, over the past several years, there has been a lack of federal investment in the training of pediatricians, as well as the general pediatric healthcare system, which has reduced children’s hospitals’ capacity to treat pediatric cases by about 10-20%, thus resulting in more strain on hospitals and their resources as they seek to treat all children who need care. We need to strengthen the national pediatric disaster and pandemic response infrastructure and invest in the growth of the pediatric workforce to prevent future shortages.”
Strengthening the pediatric workforce is one of four recommendations for policymakers that CHA is advocating for in their recently published report entitled, “Children’s Health Care Needs in a Pandemic, Disaster or Public Health Emergency: A National Blueprint for Pediatric-Specific Readiness.” The report provides recommendations on how to ensure children’s physical and mental health care needs are considered in planning for pandemics, disasters and public health emergencies.
While a new antibody drug to prevent RSV in infants is in early rollout stages, widespread access will take time across many sectors of the pediatric population and won't have as great an impact on volumes this immediate respiratory season. Parents and caregivers of children at risk should talk to their physician and have a plan about how to respond and who to call should their child contract RSV. In addition, using pandemic-prevention techniques such as handwashing, masks and keeping sick children at home are important steps parents and caregivers can take to stop the spread of RSV and help manage the surge.