Children’s hospital managing ‘unprecedented’ caseload

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Helen DeVos Childen's Hospital. Courtesy Corewell Health

Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital has stepped up to the challenge of caring for West Michigan’s vulnerable younger patients. 

As respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) cases surge nationwide, the Grand Rapids pediatric hospital said it is employing every resource to ensure children can receive the care they need. 

“We have seen the surge continue on a day-in and day-out basis,” said Dr. Hossain Marandi, president of Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital. “We want to be as prepared as we can be for the future. We don’t know what the future’s going to bring, we don’t know what’s gonna happen with RSV itself or any other virus that we might see as the seasons change, so we want to make sure that we’re fully prepared and careful, and we’re taking care of the kids.

“We have flexed our spaces, and we’ve gone above and beyond our traditional inpatient areas to be able to assure that every patient that needs care can receive that care.” 

Most recently, that included filing an emergency request with the Michigan State Health Department for an additional 48 beds and to designate 117 beds as intensive care beds. 

Of the request, Marandi said, “We believe that will give us the resources that we need to address any continued surge (and) any additional patients that we would see with not only RSV, but also with flu. We hope to never have to fill every one of those beds, but we want to be as prepared as we can be. We want to be able to say yes as these patients need that care.” 

According to Marandi, while the hospital has not received a response as of Nov. 22, it anticipates a timely, positive response to the request. 

“We currently have over 75 patients in our hospital with RSV and have seen 315 cases of RSV in the past week, combined in ED (emergency department) visits and inpatient,” Marandi said. “To care for those patients, we are redistributing pediatric-trained and competent staff from other departments which can spare the staff to the current floors and ICUs to care for kids.” 

Marandi said staff are not being pulled from the emergency department, but wait times there may be longer, and care may look different as the hospital pushes its capacity. 

One method to help the hospital accommodate higher numbers of children is “cohorting,” housing siblings in need of care in the same room to help free additional space for more patients. 

As of Nov. 22, Marandi said Helen DeVos currently has 51 total patients with RSV in the building, 20 of which are being cared for in intensive care units. He said RSV-positive patients currently make up around a third of those admitted to the children’s hospital.

Despite the overwhelming numbers, Marandi said the hospital is not transferring patients.

“We’re actually getting a lot of transfers in from many other hospitals that are incapable of taking care of some of these patients because of either lack of services or beds,” he said. “We are the referring center (and) we receive calls every day from not only different facilities within the state of Michigan, but even beyond the borders of Michigan asking to be able to transfer patients here.” 

Marandi added parents should be careful of children during the upcoming Thanksgiving weekend, as the cold-like virus is airborne and spreads through droplets as well. He recommended masking children where possible, washing hands frequently, cleaning services and contacting their general pediatrician if children are starting to have symptoms such as runny nose, cough or difficulty breathing.