'We're in a crisis': Local pediatric hospitals are swamped with patients facing respiratory illnesses

Many pediatric hospitals are in crisis mode - inundated with patients. Some are calling it the perfect storm with several respiratory illnesses, including, COVID-19, RSV and the flu surging and attacking young immune systems that haven’t been put to the test in a couple of years.

Virtua Health Systems in South Jersey says it’s been in crisis mode for the last month.

"We are seeing sometimes between 120 to 140 patients per day. Typically, this time of year we’d be seeing somewhere in the 50 to 65 patients per day range," explains Dr. Jeff Seiden, Medical Director for Pediatric Services at Virtua Health Systems. "We don’t have enough physical space to see all of those patients. We’re doing our best."

Slammed hospitals means longer wait times. Dr. Seiden says they’re looking to turn waiting areas into makeshift hospital rooms because of such high demand. Staff members and urgent care centers are working overtime.

"While we continue to have more staff coming in, there’s a limit on how much staff we have," Seiden remarked.

One viewer sent FOX 29 News a picture of an urgent care center in King of Prussia, Pa. with a line wrapped around the building 30 minutes before the doors opened.

Why the sudden surge?

 Dr. Seiden says, "Really, it was an early onset of RSV season that initiated this surge and now we’re seeing that compounded by the initiation of the flu."

Plus, COVID-19 infections are holding steady. Dr. Seiden says, in many cases, upper respiratory infections should be treated and monitored from home. However, parents should seek emergency care if a child is struggling to breathe, if their ribcage or chest sinks in or their coloring changes. It’s also important to seek emergency care if a child is unable to stay hydrated. Hospital staff throughout the area are asking for people’s patience and understanding as they deal with this brutal wave of pediatric illness.

"From the medical side, we are all making sacrifices in order to care for the community," says Seiden.