MORGANTOVN, V.Va. — Hospitals across West Virginia continue to feel the impact of the flu, RSV and coronavirus outbreaks.
VVU Medicine President and CEO Albert Wright called the situation a “tridemic” and said VVU Medicine’s larger children’s hospital in Morgantown, which opened on Sept. 24 of this year, remains full due to the outbreak.
“We always say we should be prepared for a 100-year flood, not necessarily a 500-year flood,” Wright said. “And it seems like we’re looking at a 500-year flood right now, we’ve got a lot of kids with respiratory illnesses and we’re keeping up, but it’s been a challenging time.”
According to Wright, the new facility has 30 more beds than their previous location on the sixth floor of Ruby Memorial Hospital and an emergency room that can handle some of the load.
“We were able to fill those beds and that helped,” Wright said. “The other thing that’s helped is the Emergency Department – those are areas where we’ve been able to occasionally board patients until we get them a full-time bed.”
Wright said doctors have learned how to treat the most severely ill patients during the pandemic. Doctors have learned how to communicate with satellite locations, and are now using that experience to save space in the most complex care facilities like a new hospital.
“We take the sickest kids, the kids that need ECMO (extracorporeal membrane oxygenation) or ventilation we take them to Morgantown,” Wright said. “We are working as a team across the state, including hospitals in Charleston and Huntington, to make sure children are getting the care they need.”
Health experts say the flu or RSV is not expected to peak until December. Wright said they have options if the number of patients continues to rise, but that will mean returning to some pandemic policies that caused a financial strain during the pandemic.
“Unfortunately, kids are still breaking bones and we have new diabetics, so we still have to fit those people in,” Wright said. “We haven’t had to delay election operations or procedures at this point, but that’s an additional leverage we have.”
Wright said two years of coronavirus restrictions have protected children from exposure to common bugs. When children have trouble breathing or choking, parents should seek medical advice, use telehealth or go to the emergency room depending on the severity of the case.
“If I had young children, I would try to protect them as much as I can, because as a parent it’s a challenge and not everyone can protect their children as much as possible,” Wright said.