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As RSV cases rise in infants and young children, health care providers announce crisis care standards at some sites

COURTESY PHOTO: PROVIDENCE - Providence St. Vincent Hospital in Portland. The hospital organization announced Nov. 23 that it will move to crisis care standards at its pediatric unit and children's ICU centers.Providence St. Vincent Medical Center says its pediatric intensive care unit, pediatric unit and neonatal intensive care unit are shifting to "crisis care standards" amid a surge in RSV cases among infants and young children.

"Along with health systems across Oregon and nationwide, Providence is seeing a high number of babies and young children with RSV, or respiratory syncytial virus, requiring hospitalization," the health care organization announced Wednesday afternoon. "In order to maximize the number of pediatric patients we can care for, Providence St. Vincent Medical Center's pediatric intensive care unit, pediatric unit and neonatal intensive care unit are moving into crisis care standards, as specified by the Oregon Health Authority. This will help us manage capacity to address the overwhelming demand for hospital services."

The announcement comes a day after Oregon Health & Science University announced the shift to crisis standards at its Doernbecher Children's Hospital Tuesday, Nov. 22, in response to RSV cases.

"Throughout the pandemic, OHSU has implemented surge plans in response to an influx of patients seriously ill with COVID-19 and other conditions," OHSU noted in an announcement on its site. "Therefore, OHSU has already taken steps to manage heavy demand on lifesaving health care resources and services, including addressing staffing shortages."

Echoing OHSU, Providence said the move will help maximize available care and manage its capacity for child patients.

The announcements come as Oregon is seeing a sharp spike in RSV cases among children. RSV is defined as a common respiratory virus, but the CDC notes it can be serious for infants and older adults. RSV is the most common cause of bronchitis and pneumonia among babies younger than a year old in the United States.

The crisis care mode of operation is recommended by the Oregon Health Authority when patient care resources become severely limited, the number of people requiring care exceeds a hospital's capacity and there is "no option to transfer patients to other acute or critical care facilities."

"Today, in the Portland metro region, we meet that criteria," Providence noted in its announcement.

Moving to crisis care standards will allow the organization to adjust its staffing plans and allocate more resources where they're needed most, like shifting nurse staffing ratios in critical or acute care units and shifting patient care responsibilities among hospital staff.

OHA has an interim crisis care tool that aids hospitals in making triage decisions and equitably allocating scarce resources. Providence noted it is not making triage care decisions yet, but instead, "using the OHA guidance to maximize all of our resources, including staffing."

"Our Providence Mission calls us to provide care for everyone who comes to us, and we recognize that making decisions about allocating scarce resources is emotional and complex, especially for our front-line caregivers," the announcement reads. "Their dedication to providing compassionate, high-quality care is the reason they became people of Providence."

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