Pediatricians ask Biden to declare health emergency as RSV cases rise

With hospitals overwhelmed with cases of a respiratory virus and the flu, the American Academy of Pediatrics has asked President Biden to declare a pediatric health emergency.

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Hospitals across the country have reported that they are at capacity and have even postponed elective surgeries until more beds become available.

In a letter sent to the White House last week asking for help, the physicians wrote:

“On behalf of America’s pediatricians and children’s hospitals, we ask you to declare an emergency to support the national response to the alarming surge of pediatric hospitalizations due to pediatric respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) and influenza along with the continuing children’s mental health emergency.

“The confluence of these capacity issues in pediatric hospitals and communities requires nimbleness and flexibilities that can only be provided through a Presidential declaration of an emergency under the Stafford Act or National Emergencies Act and a Public Health Emergency declaration. These flexibilities have been provided under COVID-19 and were critical during the height of the surge and ongoing fluctuations of the virus. Children and children’s providers require the same capacity support as they strive to keep up with increasing needs of our youngest Americans.”

According to the letter, more than three-fourths of pediatric beds are full, with many states “reporting more than 90 percent of their pediatric beds are occupied.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says that children 6 months old and younger are being hospitalized with RSV at seven times the rate they were in 2018.

The association is asking the president to waive certain Medicare, Medicaid or Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) requirements. That would allow hospitals, physicians, and other health care providers to share resources. It is also asking that doctors be allowed to cross state lines to help with treatment.

The group also asked the administration to “mitigate the supply, equipment and drug shortages that also threaten the ability to provide consistent and reliable care for pediatric patients.”

Mental health issues also need to be addressed, the pediatricians said in the letter.