Three respiratory viruses are spreading quickly across the country, including the flu, COVID-19, and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV). The perfect storm has led to what some are calling a “tridemic” as hospitalization rates remain high, especially among young children. Now, hospitals are putting out urgent calls for more medical-grade cribs to keep up with the influx of pediatric patients.
Last month, the leaders of several children’s hospitals called on the U.S. government to issue a formal emergency declaration to support hospitals and communities amid an “alarming surge of pediatric respiratory illnesses, including respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) and influenza, along with the continuing children’s mental health emergency.”
Corewell Health, Michigan’s largest health system, recently ordered 50 additional medical-grade cribs. The company’s Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital has been bringing specialized and non-specialized cribs out of storage to meet demand.
“We also received a shipment of 10 cribs from the Stryker Corporation. Additional cribs have been ordered so that we are well positioned to handle additional pediatric patients,” said Jeremy Kelly, business assurance specialist with that hospital.
Hard Manufacturing, the company that makes the cribs, says demand has been off the charts over the last couple of months.
“It’s been a crazy time over the past 4-6 weeks, and it doesn’t appear to be calming down anytime soon,” President Marjorie Bryen wrote CNN in an email.
“Since we make our products to order for each hospital customer, this spike in demand (especially after the very limited demand during the 2 years of COVID) has been a challenge for us to maintain our typical turnaround times. We are working overtime to meet the demand as best we can. Maintaining a high-quality product is critical and cutting corners is not an option,” she added.
Pediatric ventilators are also in high demand. Hospitals have also seen shortages of Tamiflu, amoxicillin, Augmentin, and albuterol as more people rely on over-the-counter flu medications.
Cynthia Zheng, director of pharmacy operations and support services at Nemours Children’s Health in Delaware Valley, said some of the shortages have been going on since the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“These shortages vary from items being on backorder with no estimated shipping date to product discontinuation without notice. The reasons include transportation issues and labor shortages,” Zheng said. “At Nemours Children’s Health, these supply challenges are magnified due to pediatric populations needing more specialized equipment to accommodate different stages of growth. In addition, the high volumes as a result of an early spike in RSV, have only put more strain on an already stressed system.”
Experts are encouraging parents and caregivers to avoid using fever-reducing medications unless absolutely necessary. “Consider other ways to keep your child comfortable such as ensuring they are well hydrated and avoiding overheating with clothing and blankets,” said Emily Benefield, manager of pharmacy clinical programs at Seattle’s Children’s Hospital.
Nancy Foster, vice president for quality and patient safety policy at the American Hospital Association said preserving these medications for severely ill patients is crucial as the country battles three viruses at once. “We want to be very good stewards of the drugs that are at our fingertips because they are in limited supply and because we know that if we give them when they’re not needed, it can actually increase the strength of the viral infection,” she said.
While the situation is pushing some hospitals to the breaking point, Mike Schiller, senior director of the supply chain with the Association for Health Care Resource & Materials Management, says the healthcare industry has become increasingly resilient over the years.
“We’re coming up on three years that we’ve been in this type of an environment, and the back of the U.S. healthcare system – hospitals – has not broken,” he said. “We’re very resilient, very resourceful. And I think that you’ve seen that across both the clinical and supply chain operational workflows and processes to support patient care, and we’ll continue to do so with both RSV, flu and any Covid cases that come up.”