RSV, flu in children has emergency rooms operating at capacity

SPOKANE, Wash. — Sick children with respiratory illnesses like RSV and the flu continue to fill hospitals across the country, and many are reporting an unprecedented surge.

On a call with the Washington State Hospital Association, health leaders said emergency rooms across the state have hit capacity.

“I’m actually terrified about what this could look like a month from now,” Harborview Pediatric ICU director Dr. Mary Alice King said.

Health leaders are calling on the community to help flatten the curve of RSV cases.

“I don’t think folks get this. I think people are so tired from COVID, and they don’t understand the urgency of what we’re talking about. We need to flatten this RSV curve and we need to think proactively about flattening the influenza curve. Because we are out of beds and parents are coming in just so confused,” Dr. King said.

Providence Sacred Heart Medical Center says its emergency room is taking on the brunt of the surge.

“I feel like we’re probably a step behind the west side of the state. So we are definitely in surge. But we are just building to the level that they’re describing on the west side, which means that it’s coming. We’re not going to get away with it,” Providence Sacred Heart Children’s Hospital chief administrative officer Dr. Mike Barsotti said.

Dr. Barsotti says the hospital is running over capacity at 110% to 120%. “Really trying to manage the sickest of the sick kids and sort of balancing out that on how we can use other resources,” Barsotti said.

The hospital is seeing 50% of its pediatric patients come in with respiratory illness, and a majority are RSV. It’s pulled in a reserve area at the adult hospital to extend more care to more children.

Kootenai Health says its pediatric unit is pretty much filled with children suffering from respiratory illnesses.

“We are concerned that we’re just starting to see. We’ve been watching the news in regards to the rest of the nation, and they have been seeing spikes and they know it was headed this way but it is early,” Kootenai Health director of Women and Children’s Services Kim Jorgenson said.

Leaders says it can be scary and confusing for parents to navigate the respiratory illnesses. They want to make it clear that if you have a child who’s truly sick, bring them to the emergency room. However, if they are just starting to get sick, you should contact your child’s primary care doctor beforehand.

Doctors are urging parents to stay up to date with their child’s vaccinations. It’s time to contact your child’s doctor if they are working hard to breathe.

Sometimes you can see muscles move in the rib cage, nasal flaring, and hard and fast breathing. Sometimes it can be a persistent nighttime cough that’s getting worse and worse. Then a real tell-tale sign in the little ones are just not eating, drinking or feeding as well, and less energy,” Dr. King said.

READ: Cases of RSV in children surge: Local leaders to address the situation Monday