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Early RSV surge pushing Douglas County pediatric care to its limits

Published: Aug. 12, 2021 at 7:01 PM CDT
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OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) - The Douglas County Health Department reported Thursday that pediatric hospital beds in the Omaha-metro are at capacity. But it’s not because of COVID-19, though that is adding to the concern.

“Just last week, I had 69 cases of RSV who were having para-influenza, human metanuma virus,” said Dr. Chris Maloney, chief medical officer at Children’s Hospital. “We’re seeing viruses that normally we see in the winter months here in July and August.”

Dr. Maloney said Thursday that Children’s is close to surging mostly due to the abnormally high number of RSV patients — patients they don’t normally see until the winter months.

“We were seeing other places in the country that had the RSV spike and so we were waiting, and it’s just hit us in the last few weeks,” he said.

Of the 145 beds at Children’s Hospital, 132 of them are occupied. More than half of those patients are RSV cases; two are COVID-19 patients.

“We budget for about 112 occupied beds a day, and we expect that in the winter months when we have these winter viruses, that we will push our 145,” Dr. Maloney said. “And we accommodated, two years ago, 159 one day, so we have the ability to surge.”

But these already high-occupancy numbers, combined with a potential surge of COVID-19 patients, even with their new facility opening at the end of the month, Dr. Maloney said not every bed can be staffed.

“We’re expecting that we will have larger numbers in our hospital in the next two weeks, and then even after that, when we open our Hubbard Center for Children, we get an effective 80 new beds, I don’t have the staff that can get all those 80 beds.”

Local nurse practitioner Nicholle Bruhn tells 6 News she has seen the issue first hand, and it’s concerning.

“I went to go make phone calls to get my baby admitted, which normally takes one quick phone call, it’s usually pretty simple, and I was met with the understanding that nobody in Omaha has any pediatric beds, that I really didn’t have any place for this baby to go,” she says.

Bruhn works for Omaha Children’s Clinic, a privately owned pediatric clinic.

“I made a couple of other phone calls and by pure luck I was able to get the last bed at a different facility and basically was told you’re taking our last bed as well and the only reason you’re getting it is because I literally just discharged somebody,” Bruhn said.

Bruhn was also told that there were no available beds in surrounding states like Missouri and Kansas. If there are no beds, pediatric patients will be sent to the ER, which Bruhn says essentially becomes a “parking space” for patients.

Bruhn says the only way to prevent hospitals from being overwhelmed and to avoid a surge in any sort of viral infection for kids right now is to wear masks and to vaccinate those who are eligible.

“Kids are really good at sharing one thing, and that’s germs,” she says. “Now they’re all getting ready to go back to school, so the fact we’re already seeing such a big surge and everything, it’s really terrifying to think of what’s going to happen next week. Preventative measures are always better than reactive measures”

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