Virginia pediatricians put out ‘call for help’ amid surging demand for care
Over the last week, health systems and emergency physicians across Virginia have sounded the alarm over a surge of COVID-19 hospitalizations threatening to overwhelm many emergency rooms.
But the rise of the delta variant, coupled with the start of the new school year, is also creating chaos for pediatricians, who are struggling to treat an unprecedented swell in patients. On Friday, the Virginia chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics issued a “call for help,” saying practices have been unable to keep up with “surging demand” for office visits and COVID-19 testing.
“Our volumes are through the roof,” chapter president Dr. Michael Martin said in a phone interview on Friday. “I don’t know anyone who’s not over capacity. This is the worst I’ve seen it, and I’m in my 40s. When you talk to older physicians, they’ve never seen this either.”
According to Martin, a combination of factors have created a “perfect storm” for pediatricians over the last several weeks. First, the end of statewide restrictions and dramatic decline in cases over the spring and summer led more Virginians to return to life as normal. Many children returned to daycare and summer camp — often unmasked — leading to a rise in non-COVID-19 respiratory illnesses.
In a late August letter to clinicians, Virginia Health Commissioner Dr. Norm Oliver reported that nine percent of ER visits among infants to four-year-olds in the previous week were due to respiratory syncytial virus, or RSV — a common illness that generally causes cold-like symptoms but can be much more serious for young children. Parainfluenza and rhinovirus infections have also been on the rise, leading to an increase in office visits.
The Virginia Mercury is a new, nonpartisan, nonprofit news organization covering Virginia government and policy.
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