Pediatric unit in New Mexico hospital near capacity due to surge in RSV cases

Pediatric unit in New Mexico hospital near capacity due to surge in RSV cases

New concerns for officials at the University of New Mexico Hospital. The facility’s general pediatric and pediatric intensive care units are almost near capacity due to the increase in RSV cases among young children. It’s an issue that’s currently being seen throughout the United States. “We are seeing more cases this year than we did last year and certainly pre-pandemic,” Dr. Martha Muller, division chief for pediatric infectious diseases at UNMH, said. During a Tuesday morning press conference, UNMH officials announced that the hospital has been around 100% capacity for the past 10 days. The respiratory virus is typically known to start during the fall season and peak during the middle of the winter season, usually in January or February. However, that’s not the case this time around.”We’re also seeing other viruses that can present with severe respiratory symptoms requiring hospitalization,” Dr. Anna Duran, a pediatric hospitalist at UNMH, said. “Some of these viruses include the RSV, COVID-19, flu, and parainfluenza.”Fifty-eight beds are available for pediatric patients at the hospital, but with the increasing numbers, the staff has had to bed children in alternative areas to meet the demand. “We’ve had several nights where we had to hold in excess of 10 patients overnight in the pediatric emergency room until we can find other beds to house those patients,” Dr. Maribeth Thornton, associate chief nursing officer at UNMH, said.Hospital officials say most cases range anywhere from a newborn to a five-year-old. And RSV symptoms can be severe, depending on the case. “Children who are working harder to breathe, they’re breathing faster,” Duran said. “They may not be taking liquid in very well, resulting in dehydration.”Dozens of parents with children in the hospital are currently receiving tons of support and resources, despite a stressful time for faculty and staff. “Most of our rooms have parent beds available, so parents can comfortably spend the night with their child in the room. And of course, all of our medical professionals are supporting these kids,” Thornton said. As of Tuesday, only two visitors are allowed bedside at UNMH. Those selected must be masked and cannot be siblings, but staff are hoping to reconsider the protocol over the next few weeks. “I think it’ll probably be a ‘stay tuned’ for us to see how this season is going to go,” Muller said. As we continue throughout the fall and winter months, hospital officials say they do have plans in place if RSV cases were to continue to rise.”Through this time, we have been able to expand the need for extra rooms in our hospital,” Duran said. “We are also collaborating with hospitals around the state to include Presbyterian and St. Christus.” Along with outreach to different hospitals, UNMH is also compiling a 32-step plan. “How many admissions we have, how many discharges we have, what are we expecting surgeries to look like tomorrow? There’s a lot of thoughtfulness that goes into this,” Thornton said. Until then, doctors say prevention at home will be key. Efforts include cleaning hard surfaces, staying home when sick, and washing hands. “Either hand sanitizer, soap and water. Teaching kiddos especially to keep their hands from their faces, so we aren’t inoculating ourselves with virus,” Mueller said. All while UNMH staff stay vigilant in fighting respiratory illnesses.”We recognize that we have to take care of all of the children in New Mexico and not just those in the surrounding area, so there is a lot of movement and a lot of discussion,” Duran said.

New concerns for officials at the University of New Mexico Hospital.

The facility’s general pediatric and pediatric intensive care units are almost near capacity due to the increase in RSV cases among young children.

It’s an issue that’s currently being seen throughout the United States.

“We are seeing more cases this year than we did last year and certainly pre-pandemic,” Dr. Martha Muller, division chief for pediatric infectious diseases at UNMH, said.

During a Tuesday morning press conference, UNMH officials announced that the hospital has been around 100% capacity for the past 10 days.

The virus is typically known to start during the fall season and peak during the middle of the winter season, usually in January or February.

However, that’s not the case this time around.

“We’re also seeing other viruses that can present with severe respiratory symptoms requiring hospitalization,” Dr. Anna Duran, a pediatric hospitalist at UNMH, said. “Some of these viruses include the RSV, COVID-19, flu, and parainfluenza.”

Fifty-eight beds are available for pediatric patients at the hospital, but with the increasing numbers, the staff has had to bed children in alternative areas to meet the demand.

“We’ve had several nights where we had to hold in excess of 10 patients overnight in the pediatric emergency room until we can find other beds to house those patients,” Dr. Maribeth Thornton, associate chief nursing officer at UNMH, said.

Hospital officials say most cases range anywhere from a newborn to a five-year-old.

And RSV symptoms can be severe, depending on the case.

“Children who are working harder to breathe, they’re breathing faster,” Duran said. “They may not be taking liquid in very well, resulting in dehydration.”

Dozens of parents with children in the hospital are currently receiving tons of support and resources, despite a stressful time for faculty and staff.

“Most of our rooms have parent beds available, so parents can comfortably spend the night with their child in the room. And of course, all of our medical professionals are supporting these kids,” Thornton said.

As of Tuesday, only two visitors are allowed bedside at UNMH. Those selected must be masked and cannot be siblings, but staff are hoping to reconsider the protocol over the next few weeks.

“I think it’ll probably be a ‘stay tuned’ for us to see how this season is going to go,” Muller said.

As we continue throughout the fall and winter months, hospital officials say they do have plans in place if RSV cases were to continue to rise.

“Through this time, we have been able to expand the need for extra rooms in our hospital,” Duran said. “We are also collaborating with hospitals around the state to include Presbyterian and St. Christus.”

Along with outreach to different hospitals, UNMH is also compiling a 32-step plan.

“How many admissions we have, how many discharges we have, what are we expecting surgeries to look like tomorrow? There’s a lot of thoughtfulness that goes into this,” Thornton said.

Until then, doctors say prevention at home will be key.

Efforts include cleaning hard surfaces, staying home when sick, and washing hands.

“Either hand sanitizer, soap and water. Teaching kiddos especially to keep their hands from their faces, so we aren’t inoculating ourselves with virus,” Mueller said.

All while UNMH staff stay vigilant in fighting respiratory illnesses.

“We recognize that we have to take care of all of the children in New Mexico and not just those in the surrounding area, so there is a lot of movement and a lot of discussion,” Duran said.

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