Pediatric health provider groups are calling on the Biden administration to declare a national emergency to help them combat the surge of hospitalizations due to respiratory illnesses in children.
Seasonal flu, respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) and other respiratory viruses are hitting young children especially hard this year. The resulting hospitalizations are putting an immense strain on a pediatric health system that is still reeling from COVID-19.
Hospitals are at capacity, beds are scarce, and staffing shortages are pushing the workforce to the breaking point.
In a letter sent to President Biden and Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra, the Children's Hospital Association and the American Academy of Pediatrics said a dual declaration of a national emergency along with a public health emergency is needed.
"We need emergency funding support and flexibilities along the same lines of what was provided to respond to COVID surges," the organizations wrote.
Capacity constraints at children’s hospitals and pediatric offices are resulting in more children being cared for in community and adult hospitals which may have limited or no capacity to care for children.
"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," the letter stated.
According to the groups, the dual emergency declarations would allow waiver of certain Medicare, Medicaid or Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) requirements so that hospitals, physicians and other health care providers can have access to emergency funding to keep up with the growing demands, specifically related to workforce support.
Most RSV cases and other respiratory illnesses don't require hospitalizations. But when so many children are stricken with viruses at the same time, the surge can quickly overwhelm hospitals.