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CHRISTUS treating more sick kids in pandemic’s latest wave, preparing for more pediatric patients than ever before

Anderson: Patients range in age from several weeks old to teenagers
Published: Aug. 16, 2021 at 7:36 PM CDT|Updated: Aug. 16, 2021 at 7:42 PM CDT
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TYLER, Texas (KLTV) - An East Texas hospital leader says they’re facing a new challenge in the fight against this latest wave of COVID-19: caring for sick kids and finding facilities to send them to for a higher level of care.

“We’re seeing a combination of COVID with RSV through the summer,” said Dr. Mark Anderson, chief medical officer for CHRISTUS Health. “We’re seeing patients with just COVID, and then we’re seeing patients with COVID and asthma, those two combinations of RSV and asthma in combination with COVID particularly seem to lead to hospitalization.”

With a severe lack of pediatric ICU beds at children’s hospitals in places like Dallas-Fort Worth, Anderson said they’re struggling to figure out where to transfer pediatric patients.

“We are having difficulty moving pediatric patients,” Anderson said. “So we’ve looked at LSU as well as the Dallas area, and we’re hoping as they get additional nursing resources, they’ll open up additional beds and be able to help us with some of those transfers, but we’re preparing to hold more pediatric patients in-house than we ever have.”

Aside from children, Anderson said their hospitals continue to see a significant increase in patients of all ages needing care.

“It still remains that over 95% of the patients in this facility are unvaccinated,” Anderson said. “Every once in a while you’ll see a patient is vaccinated that will have a breakthrough, but many of those also have lots of complex medical conditions on top of it.”

Across East Texas, hospital leaders say they’re still waiting on answers from the state when it comes to requests for additional resources. Most hospitals have emphasized the need for nurses and respiratory therapists.

“It is really sad when you think about this really is a preventable event this fall,” Anderson said. “We believe if a higher percentage of the population was vaccinated, along with any inherent immunity that we see in our communities from prior disease, we wouldn’t be going through this. But it’s obvious from our inpatient numbers, not enough of our population has immunity from vaccination or from disease that they’ve had previously.”

NET Health’s Director of Public Health Emergency Preparedness, Russell Hopkins, warns without increasing vaccination rates and mitigation measures like masking and social distancing, the numbers will keep going up.

“To do nothing means we just delay the peak of this wave even longer and it just goes higher and higher,” Hopkins said. “And we’re not following those measures in East Texas.”

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