With a rising tide of Covid-19 patients threatening to overwhelm hospitals, public health officials across the United States are looking for a safety valve the Northeast used in the spring: borrow beds at children’s hospitals to treat adults.
Hospitalizations in the United States reached a record 104,600, according to the Covid Tracking Project, and the country set a record last week for the most deaths in a seven-day period.
“As fall has kicked in and wave two has hit, I think we’re seeing a lot more of this happening now,” said Amy Knight, president of the Association of Children’s Hospitals, a national group representing more than 200 American establishments.
It is rare for children’s hospitals in the United States to admit adult patients or relax their admission criteria, so the fact that this is done now is a testament to the severity of the crisis, according to Dr. Peter Jay Hotez, professor of pediatrics and virology. molecular and microbiology. at Baylor College of Medicine and co-director of the Texas Children’s Hospital Center for Vaccine Development.
“I don’t even know if this was done during the H1N1 flu in 2009, so I can’t think of too many modern precedents,” he said.
Because coronavirus infections seem to largely spare young children, compared to adolescents and adults, children’s hospitals and pediatric departments in general hospitals tended not to be overwhelmed at the start of the pandemic.
“It was more like a trickle of kids who needed to be hospitalized,” Ms. Knight said.
Since then, however, the number of children infected and requiring hospital care has increased sharply, and children’s hospitals may have less space and resources at a time of year when the need for pediatric beds is greater. anyway tend to increase because of the flu.
“We’re much more limited in capacity for serious pediatric illness across the country,” said Dr. Brian Cummings, who works in the intensive care unit at MassGeneral Hospital for Children in Boston. “It is clear that we are overloading the capacity of adults in intensive care, and then using an even scarcer resource concerns all of us who advocate for children.”
Despite this, children’s hospitals are mobilizing to help with the coronavirus outbreak in various ways. The Children’s Hospital Association released guidelines in April for several possible approaches, including taking in pediatric patients from general hospitals to free up space in these facilities and increase their maximum age for admission.
St. Louis Children’s Hospital, part of BJC HealthCare, began opening its doors to adult patients in November, and another St. Louis pediatric hospital, Cardinal Glennon Children’s Hospital, accepts transfers from adults who do not have Covid-19. Buffalo’s Oishei Children’s Hospital said it would temporarily increase its admission limit to admit patients up to 25 years of age.
During the first big wave in the northeast, from April to June, the MassGeneral Hospital for Children welcomed adult patients to its 14-bed intensive care unit. “As we saw hospitals become overwhelmed, everyone wanted to come together and do their part,” said Dr. Cummings.
The unit returned to normal over the summer, but with a further upward trend in cases in Massachusetts, he said: “We are really worried about having patients again within a week or so. next two.