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Children’s hospitals plead Biden for ‘immediate help’ in ‘capacity crisis’

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The CEO of the Children’s Hospital Association (CHA) pleaded on Thursday for President Biden to support pediatric hospitals across the country as they approach capacity and confront staff shortages during the pandemic.

Children patients have flooded pediatric hospitals in recent weeks with COVID-19 cases as well as a respiratory illness called RSV, pushing several of these hospitals to their breaking point. 

Mark Wietecha, the CEO of the association that represents the U.S.’s more than 220 children’s hospitals, called the culmination of challenges the “perfect storm” in a letter sent to the president. 

With pediatric volumes at or near capacity and the upcoming school season expected to increase demand, there may not be sufficient bed capacity or expert staff to care for children and families in need,” he said. “The current impacts to our nation’s pediatric hospitals must be considered as we quickly develop local, state and federal responses to serve and protect children.”

In the letter, Wietecha requests the federal government step in and offer emergency assistance to support staff to allow hospitals to respond to the growing pediatric admissions that could elevate more as the school year begins. 

We ask for immediate support for pandemic-driven staffing cost increases through federal pediatric emergency assistance, specifically the release of provider relief funding and any other federal workforce support that can be quickly distributed and targeted to pediatric crisis response,” he wrote. 

The CHA also “strongly” supports and advocates “for stronger masking and vaccination guidance,” he said, noting that such precautions can prevent children from contracting COVID-19 and ending up in the hospital. 

Wietecha acknowledged that it is still less likely for children infected with COVID-19 to need hospitalization than adults, but said the rise in pediatric COVID-19 hospitalizations contributes to the “significant pressure” on children’s hospitals. 

The CEO pointed out that the financial strain, youth mental health crisis, increase in RSV hospitalizations and staff shortages and burnout have also added to the demand. 

Across the country, more than 1,400 children are hospitalized with confirmed COVID-19, according to data from the Department of Health and Human Services. More than 350 children were hospitalized with the virus Wednesday. 

While the vaccine is authorized for people aged 12 and older, the younger population is not eligible for their shots yet, making them still vulnerable to contracting COVID-19. 

In the letter, CHA also called on the Biden administration to “continue to prioritize the development and roll out” of a vaccine for children younger than 12. 

Tags children Children's Hospital Association children's hospitals Coronavirus COVID-19 Joe Biden Pandemic

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