Valley hospitals, pediatricians overwhelmed due to COVID and other services

Posted at 5:44 PM, Aug 18, 2021
and last updated 2021-08-18 22:01:54-04

PHOENIX — Leaders from Banner Health and Valleywise Health Wednesday said they're concerned if the current trend of rising COVID hospitalizations continues, they may have to start restricting care and services for non-COVID patients.

"If our COVID patients overwhelm our healthcare systems, there may come a point where we might have to reduce or cut back on other services such as ambulatory services or patients that had planned elective surgeries. It’s our absolute hope and desire to not go to that point," said Banner Chief Clinical Officer Dr. Marjorie Bessel.

"We’re seeing in other parts of the country where you may even have to transfer people great distances to be able to care for them. We haven’t had to come to that, but that’s certainly something that could happen if the numbers increase," said Valleywise Chief Clinical Officer Dr. Michael White.

Both systems are dealing with staffing shortages and increased demand for non-COVID care as well. Many people put off surgeries or care last year.

"The high number of non-COVID patients we are caring for coupled with the week over week increase in COVID hospitalizations, it’s troubling," said Dr. Bessel.

Pediatric offices are also overwhelmed.

Dr. Kristin Struble is a pediatrician at Camelback Pediatrics. She said offices all over the state and across the nation have seen an increase in appointments.

"In the last week, it's been escalating to not being able to not being able to get all our patients in," said Dr. Struble.

She said on top of COVID-related appointments, several different winter viruses are making the rounds. That includes respiratory syncytial virus or RSV.

"It usually hits around November/December. So it's really confusing for us because we don't anticipate that. We do anticipate the typical school viruses, the colds and runny noses, but this one is much more serious, especially for babies," said Dr. Struble.

Many families also put off physicals last year, which schools and sports teams require at the beginning of the school year.

"They are behind on a lot of the routine vaccines that are absolutely necessary to prevent other problems with infections that are quite serious," said Dr. Struble.

Many appointments are also mental health-related, according to Struble. She said staffing can be an issue, especially if someone gets sick and needs to be tested.

For parents, she recommends they call their pediatric office first thing in the morning. She also said there are urgent care centers open after-hours as well, and Phoenix Children's Hospital provides outstanding services.