RSV surge slams New Mexico hospitals amid nursing shortage
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — RSV cases are on the rise across the country but New Mexico hospitals are reaching capacity, especially in their pediatric units. Now, many are asking for help.
Clinics, emergency rooms, and urgent cares are all seeing record numbers of RSV cases and patients with respiratory infections.
“Every business these days just about has staffing shortages and we are no different, so it is definitely putting a strain on our front office staff with so many patients coming in, and our nurses going through messages and talking to parents, and triaging our patients – we can only see so many patients in a day,” Pediatrician Dr. Alex Cvijanovich said.
The brunt of those patients that Dr. Cvijanovich sees every day are suffering from RSV.
According to the CDC’s RSV interactive dashboard, on average, RSV sent four of every 100,000 kids to the hospital this fall.
In New Mexico though, the hospitalization rate is more than double that – and compared to other reporting states, New Mexico had the most cases last week.
“We have been seeing just record number of respiratory infections, in general, a lot of kids with RSV which can cause symptoms that cause cold-like symptoms, sometimes it hits kids worse than a regular cold does,” Cvijanovich said.
If that happens, then you should take your child to a doctor. However, so many hospitals in the state are running out of room.
A shortage of nurses
“Hospitals are 130% of what their capacity is and in order to do that we are having to create additional beds, but we need the additional staff to take care of those patients that are in the beds,” President and CEO of the New Mexico Hospital Association Troy Clark said.
The New Mexico Hospital Association and the New Mexico Nurses Association are both calling for help.
“We are reaching out to those who have pediatric experience in the past and they have chosen a different career retired or gone part time if they would be willing to come back and help to see if we can help try and keep all the pediatric patients who have been admitted and need hospital level of care in the state to avoid having to transfer them out of the state,” Clark said.
Clark says sending children out of state for treatment is a last resort and they are hopeful this shortage doesn’t last too long.
“We hope it’s just though the winter season obviously we can’t tell the future and we hope we don’t have a prolonged impact to our children but we are looking for those who are willing to pick up an extra shift here or there,” Clark said.
If you are interested in stepping back into a pediatric clinic, please contact the New Mexico Hospital Association by calling (505) 343-0010 or by sending an email to email@example.com
You can also reach out to the New Mexico Nurses Association by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling (505) 660-3890.
Even with emergency rooms and urgent cares filling up, parents should not hesitate to bring their children to the doctor if they are sick.
Symptoms of RSV
Dr. Cvijanovich says RSV looks different and has different symptoms, depending on the age of the child.
For babies, their bellies will be moving up and down faster than normal, and their breathing will sound like a dog panting. Infants and toddlers will have heavy breathing and you may notice what Dr. Cvijanovich calls pulling at the ribs or on the neck. Older children will have a persistent cough, wheezing, and difficulty breathing.
“If they see any of that, they absolutely need to go to the emergency room or urgent care if it does not resolve with suctioning,” Cvijanovich said.
Dr. Cvijanovich adds the best defense this flu season is to get vaccinated, wash your hands frequently, and wear a mask to help prevent the spread of illnesses.