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RSV spike prompts Primary Children’s Hospital to delay surgeries

By Jamie Lampros - Special to the Standard-Examiner | Nov 30, 2022

Photo supplied, Intermountain Healthcare

Intermountain Primary Children's Hospital in Salt Lake City is shown in this undated photo.

SALT LAKE CITY — Because of a surge in respiratory illnesses, Intermountain Primary Children’s Hospital is delaying approximately 10% of nonurgent procedures and surgeries.

“Our patient volumes are exceeding typical winter surge levels, and the hospital has been at or near capacity for several consecutive weeks,” said Dustin Lipson, administrator at Intermountain Primary Children’s Hospital. “This is combined with high volumes of patients coming to the emergency department for other various illnesses and injuries.”

During a press conference Tuesday afternoon, Dr. Andrew Pavia, pediatric infectious disease physician at University of Utah Health and Intermountain Primary Children’s Hospital, said children with respiratory syncytial virus, or RSV, are being seen in unprecedented numbers in addition to those suffering with influenza and COVID-19. Because of this, approximately 50 procedures and surgeries have been canceled already this week.

“We don’t take this action lightly and have many measures put in place to deal with a surge,” he said.

Pavia said the hospital has been operating at full capacity since summer, but with the latest surge in respiratory illnesses, two children are being put in one room together, and others are being treated in nonclinical settings.

“In spite of all those things, we’re chock full every day and trying to find ways to get children home so we can admit others,” he said. “We also have a staff shortage. We have been going full speed for almost three years and we’ve had a lot of resignations. People are tired and people have left.”

Pavia said the emergency department has also been extremely busy the past few days with a high number of children being seen for respiratory illnesses on top of other reasons such as accidents and injuries.

“It’s really important for us to protect ourselves and our children. While RSV can be a very mild cold in some adults, it can be very severe in young infants, so we need to protect them. Keep them away from people who are coughing, sneezing or wheezing. It’s not too late to get your influenza vaccine and your COVID booster.”

Pavia said symptoms of RSV in children can include trouble breathing, eating and drinking. Other symptoms include runny nose, fever, wheezing, coughing, sneezing and loss of appetite.

Pavia said it’s hard to know when the hospital will resume nonurgent surgeries and procedures.

“We’re still early in the cold seasons and predictions are always difficult to make. It does look like RSV has not peaked yet and we have a long way to go before influenza peaks,” he said. “We do reevaluate basically every day so we can make those decisions as quickly as we can. It does cause inconvenience for families who are having to have procedures canceled and we hope they understand. We will not delay any surgery that will endanger any child, so if it’s urgent, they will get them,” Pavia said.

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