With pediatric RSV cases rising, executive order to help strained hospitals

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On Monday, Nov. 14, Governor Kate Brown issued an emergency declaration in response to a surge of pediatric cases and hospitalizations of respiratory viruses, including respiratory syncytial virus (RSV). The declaration will give hospitals more flexibility to staff beds for children, draw on a pool of medical volunteer nurses and doctors and take other steps to provide care to pediatric patients. 

RSV is a common virus that causes cold-like symptoms, but it can cause severe illness, especially in children under 2 years old (especially infants under 6 months) and older adults.

Protect yourself and loved ones from respiratory viruses like RSV:
-wash hands thoroughly and frequently.
-consider wearing a mask in indoor crowded places, especially if at high risk for severe illness. 
-over coughs and sneezes
-disinfect common, high-touch areas 
-Stay home when sick, if possible.

The statewide pediatric hospitalization rate has rapidly increased since RSV season began in late October. Oregon has only two pediatric specialty hospitals with a pediatric intensive care unit (ICU)–Oregon Health & Science University’s (OHSU) Doernbecher Children’s Hospital and Legacy Emanuel’s Randall Children’s Hospital, both in Portland. A third Portland hospital, Providence St. Vincent Medical Center, also has a limited number of pediatric ICU beds.

As of Nov. 16 in Oregon, there were:

  • Three available pediatric ICU beds out of 40 staffed beds.
  • 32 available pediatric non-ICU beds out of 262 staffed beds.
  • 47 available neonatal ICU beds out of 231 staffed beds.

“Like other hospitals in the region and across the country, OHSU Doernbecher Children’s Hospital is currently admitting a high number of sick patients,” said Dana A. Braner, M.D., physician-in-chief at OHSU Doernbecher Children’s Hospital. “Illnesses have hit our communities hard—and this comes on top of extreme health care staffing challenges which were exacerbated by the pandemic. We expect this spike in illness to continue in the coming months. The dedicated staff here at Doernbecher are incredible, and they will continue to provide quality, compassionate care for our patients.”

The governor’s executive order will give hospitals the resources they need to help meet the anticipated rise in hospitalizations from RSV and other childhood illnesses.

And with flu and COVID-19 cases also expected to rise this winter, everyone is encouraged to take steps to prevent and reduce the spread of respiratory viruses, including RSV.

If you have questions about your child’s care, call their pediatrician. If you don’t have access to a pediatrician, call 211 for help finding one).

RSV resources from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: