Las Vegas Valley hospitals operating in ‘surge mode’ to help surge of pediatric patients

Published: Dec. 1, 2022 at 7:32 AM PST
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LAS VEGAS, Nev. (FOX5) - Local hospitals across the Las Vegas Valley have upgraded their response to “surge” mode in an effort to deal with the spike in pediatric cases of flu and RSV, and the Nevada Hospital Association has asked the Governor’s Office for help to aid the statewide situation.

According to the NVHA, hospitals statewide continue to operate at 100% or higher capacity for pediatric patients; the problem is exacerbated in Northern Nevada, where a pediatric and NICU ward was recently shuttered. There is ample bed space for adults, NVHA said.

The NVHA requested aid from Gov. Sisolak’s office to exceed licensed capacity in neonatal and pediatric units, and waive requirements hire out-of-state travel nurses to deal with a pediatric nurse shortage. According to Gov. Sisolak’s office, officials are working on the request.

Sunrise Children’s Hospital repurposed a portion of facilities to expand emergency room capacity by 30%, according to Associate Medical Director Dr. Jacob Snow, and other medical facilities across the Valley are working together in a “surge” mode to aid patients.

“We’re seeing numbers of patients each day that are more than our typical record days from years gone by. Most of our pediatric patients are having breathing issues, dehydration issues, runny nose congestion, fevers, and those symptoms can be caused by influenza, which is very widespread. They can also be caused by RSV, which is very widespread, and they can be caused by COVID, which in the pediatric world is less widespread right now,” Snow said, noting that most patients had not been sick at all during the pandemic due to COVID precautions.

Though most children can be treated and discharged the same day, infants and medically vulnerable children may need an overnight stay.

Numerous emergency room lobbies are experiencing long wait times due to demand-- which, Dr. Snow warns, can be a health risk for germs and exposure, and cautions families to avoid an ER visit unless its necessary.

When should your child stay home, or visit a primary care doctor? “If your child looks reasonably okay, if it looks like they have a cold or flu, it is absolutely best in okay to stay home and go see your regular doctor,” Dr. Snow said, noting that Tylenol or ibuprofen may be appropriate for a young child over six months of age.

When should your child head to the hospital? Age, pre-existing conditions, or symptoms are a factor.

“If you have a young infant with a fever, or if you have a child who’s medically more vulnerable with some other medical complication, or if your child is consistently having a hard time breathing, showing what we call ‘severe retractions,’ if they’re excessively lethargic, if they’re failing to drink and getting dehydrated-- those are there more severe patients that should come to the hospital,” Dr. Snow said.

Doctors nationwide have worried about a surge in flu, RSV and COVID cases after holiday gatherings; Dr. Snow said the impact of the holidays should be felt in the next week. The NVHA warns that overcrowding will be an issue for pediatric wards for flu season.