OHSU is going into emergency mode in light of the increase in severe pediatric cases > Oregon

Oregon Health & Science University is taking immediate action to enroll more children in its pediatric intensive care unit.

The hospital is one of only three in the state that provides intensive care to children, including ventilation. OHSU’s Doernbecher Children’s Hospital has 20 pediatric intensive care unit beds, about half of what is available statewide. Legacy’s Randall Children’s Hospital and Providence St. Vincent also offer pediatric critical care.

OHSU says pediatric ICU beds are no longer available and is officially moving to what is known as the crisis standard of care mode.

The move comes amid a surge in childhood respiratory virus RSV and a nationwide shortage of nurses. Over the past week, Oregon hospitals have transferred some of their sickest pediatric patients to Idaho due to a shortage of pediatric intensive care unit beds in Oregon.

“The impetus for this change was that we were concerned that we would not be able to care for the next child requiring pediatric critical care,” said Dr. Carl Eriksson, specialist in pediatric critical care at OHSU. “Every hospital turns patients away sometimes. What we are seeing now is that the collective group of hospitals has really gotten to a point where we are concerned about our ability to care for the next patient.”

According to OHSU, staffing is the most critical issue. The emergency standards will allow managers to assign more patients at a time to each nurse in the pediatric intensive care unit. Under normal standards of care, pediatric nurses attend to only one or two patients.

The crisis standards came into effect at 7 p.m. on Monday. The shift is being driven by a surge in pediatric patients with RSV, a childhood respiratory virus particularly dangerous to infants, and a nationwide shortage of nurses.

Pacific Northwest health officials are warning people to take extra care this holiday season in light of COVID-19, the flu and RSV.

While these viruses can cause mild infections, they can cause serious illnesses in the young, elderly, pregnant women, and those with compromised immune systems.

Children with RSV account for about 25% of the total number of patients in pediatric medical departments and the pediatric intensive care unit, according to Eriksson.

“Children who need critical care are children who are breathing so heavily that they need a ventilator to help them,” Eriksson said. “They often require very intensive care that cannot be provided in a regular inpatient medical-surgical unit.”

The number of RSV cases has increased dramatically in Oregon in recent weeks, and health officials have predicted an increase in RSV hospitalizations. Flu cases are also increasing rapidly in Oregon.

To combat these viruses, health officials are encouraging people to keep up to date on flu and COVID vaccines, wash their hands frequently, and stay home when sick.

Most RSV infections go away on their own in a week or two and can be managed with proper diet, hydration, sleep, and the use of over-the-counter medications.

For parents treating babies with RSV at home, pediatricians say nasal suctioning is especially important. Babies need to breathe through their noses, so using saline spray and a suction device to keep their noses clear while they recover from the virus can help.

OHSU Hospital, 2019.

OHSU Hospital, 2019.

Courtesy of Oregon Health & Science University