Some children in urgent need of medical care will soon be treated in a tent located outside the UMPC Children’s Hospital in Pittsburgh in Bloomfield.
Like many children’s hospitals in the US, Pittsburgh sees what Dr. Raymond Pitetti described it as a “huge” increase in the number of patients. He said the increase started a few weeks ago.
The increase in the number of pediatric patients is due to COVID-19 and other respiratory viruses. These include parainfluenza virus or respiratory syncytial virus, also called RSV, which is most often seen in winter. Many respiratory viruses are circulating aggressively this summer for lack of mask mandates.
“[People] should not be alarmed by the tent. This is something we’re doing to stay one step ahead…so we can keep seeing kids and see them as quickly and effectively as possible,” said Pitetti, head of the hospital’s emergency department.
The tent is expected to open at the weekend for medical care. Hospital officials hope it will cut wait times by more than two hours, Pitetti said.
Children still enter through the front door of the emergency department or the ambulance room. From now on, those in need of COVID-19 testing will be directed to the 10-bed tent. The outdoor unit may also be used for other patients, especially with the approach of the flu season.
The hospital also opened an indoor, 10-bed “fast track unit” this week for emergency patients requiring less acute care. Pitetti said the addition of this unit and tent will increase the emergency department’s capacity from 46 to 66 beds.
As for COVID, cases among children 12 years and younger are on the rise in Allegheny County. According to the head of the province’s health department, there were only 67 cases among children in this age group in June. That was 157 in July and 773 in August. According to data collected by the American Academy of Pediatrics, between 0.1% and 1.9% of children who test positive for COVID are hospitalized.
Intensive care beds are also filling up at Pittsburgh Children’s, the only children’s hospital in southwestern Pennsylvania. State records show that as of Friday afternoon, Allegheny County has only five available ICU beds for children. Earlier this week there was only one bed available. The Children’s Hospital website says the ICU contains 36 beds, although this number could be increased.
“There have been times when on paper the hospital appears to be full, but what we will do is open new units and create new beds and new spaces for patients to be admitted to,” said Pitetti, who noted that this had been done a few times. . flu seasons, as well as in 2009 during the H1N1 pandemic.
“I will reassure parents, we will always have a place for their children,” he said. “We will always be able to take care of them.”
UPMC did not directly answer questions about whether the facility has added ICU beds, and it would not provide specific figures on ICU capacity. A hospital spokeswoman said it is “able to care for any child in need of intensive care”.
When asked for comment about the increase in pediatric hospitalized patients, the Pennsylvania Department of Health said it is working to address the “relevant” increases occurring in facilities across the state.
“We encourage it [eligible] to get vaccinated and to help protect those who may be too young to be vaccinated,” a department spokeswoman said.