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AUSTIN, Texas (Oct. 28, 2022) – Texas hospitals are urging the public to stay vigilant about respiratory illnesses following nationwide reports of pediatric hospital bed shortages due to this season’s rapid spread of respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) and influenza.
Texas pediatric hospital beds are currently 88% occupied, according to data from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
Texas hospitals are reporting surges in patients visiting emergency departments for non-emergency medical conditions, such as mild symptoms and routine testing. Wait times and patient volumes are increasing, and emergency department capacity in some areas is being depleted by visits for non-emergency medical conditions and requests for testing. Pervasive staff shortages further complicate surges in hospital visits.
“Hospitals are here for Texas, particularly in emergencies,” said John Hawkins, President/CEO of the Texas Hospital Association. “Our capacity to provide emergency care must be protected for those who need us most.”
For mild symptoms, flu testing can occur through a person’s regular doctor’s office, urgent care clinic or public health department. Hospital emergency departments should be used for people who are very sick or believe they are experiencing an emergency medical condition, including one related to respiratory or flu sickness. While many people recover from RSV and flu on their own, those who are at higher risk of complications or are concerned about their illness should contact their health care provider for guidance.
THA offers the following tips for the public:
- DON’T: Seek hospital emergency care for non-emergency medical conditions, such as mild symptoms and routine testing.
- DO: Contact your health care provider for guidance as warranted.
- DO: Seek hospital emergency care if symptoms are worrisome and emergency care is needed. Emergency medical conditions can include difficulty breathing, dehydration and worsening symptoms.
- DO: Get vaccinated against the flu, if eligible. Visit Find Flu Vaccines at www.vaccines.gov to search for flu vaccine availability.
- DO: Be patient if seeking care through a hospital emergency department. Consider that wait times may be elevated as respiratory illnesses reach seasonal peak levels.
THA is monitoring the pediatric bed situation among Texas hospitals following nationwide reports of bed shortages attributed to RSV. Nationally, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services data shows that 76% of pediatric beds across the country are full, with anecdotal reports largely pinning the shortage on widespread RSV infections. Influenza cases are contributing to pediatric hospitalizations as well.
THA is in contact with Texas hospitals and keeping tabs on affected facilities’ efforts to respond to surges in bed capacity. Collecting these reports helps THA alert the Texas Department of State Health Services, the Texas Division of Emergency Management and other state leadership to the situation on the ground.
Influenza is a viral respiratory illness with symptoms that include fever, cough, stuffy or runny nose, sore throat, headache, chills and fatigue. A flu test is not always needed to diagnose the flu, however in some cases it may be recommended by a health care provider. People at risk of complications should consult their health care provider.
RSV infection is a viral respiratory illness that usually causes mild, cold-like symptoms. Most people recover in a week or two, but RSV can be serious, especially for infants and older adults. Symptoms include runny nose, decreased appetite, coughing, sneezing, fever and wheezing.
Founded in 1930, the Texas Hospital Association is the leadership organization and principal advocate for the state’s hospitals and health care systems. Based in Austin, THA enhances its members’ abilities to improve accessibility, quality and cost-effectiveness of health care for all Texans. One of the largest hospital associations in the country, THA represents 452 of the state’s non-federal general and specialty hospitals and health care systems, which employ some 400,000 health care professionals statewide. Learn more about THA at www.tha.org or follow THA on Twitter at http://twitter.com/texashospitals.