MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — At a time when more kids are getting sick, there are fewer pediatric hospital beds available to treat them.

“It has been a long and draining ultramarathon for us,” said Dr. Rahul Koranne, CEO of the Minnesota Hospital Association.

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Koranne says staffing is just one piece contributing to limited pediatric beds in the state.

“They are tight. It’s because we’re seeing high medical volumes, we are seeing, you know, viruses in our community,” Koranne said.

M Health Fairview notes respiratory illnesses, winter viruses like RSV, and mental health crises as factors that are keeping its system extremely busy.

Gillette Children’s Specialty Healthcare has accepted pediatric transfers in recent months when they can, due to lack of beds elsewhere.

Children’s Minnesota would only say they have beds available for patients who need them.

Dr. Koranne says COVID-19 adds to it, along with delayed procedures, and capacity is constantly in flux. And he warns patients with chronic illness should be especially mindful during this crunch.

(credit: CBS)

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“Make sure that they are seeking care, staying connected with the primary care provider, and following their guidance,” Koranne said.

He says there are things people can do to lessen the burden on the overall system.

“Let’s do what the CDC and the department of health is telling us. Let’s make sure we wear the masks, we socially distance, stay home if you’re sick. If you’re eligible, get the vaccine,” he said.

WCCO is told there are triage plans in place in case of an increase in pediatric patients. At times, it may mean a longer wait in the emergency room.

Here’s more of what M Health Fairview had to say:

Like every hospital in the state, hospitals in the M Health Fairview system are extremely busy right now for three primary reasons: an increase in COVID hospitalizations, an increase in delayed procedures picking up at a rapid rate, and a staffing shortage. The staffing issue is not unique to M Health Fairview or the state of Minnesota, nor is it unique to healthcare. There is an economy-wide labor shortage. When we don’t have the staff to care for the patients, it means we can’t safely care for as many patients.

We are also seeing an increase in mental health crises, respiratory illnesses and other classically winter viruses such as RSV, which is adding to hospitalizations among children.

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The COVID vaccine is the most powerful tool we have to protect ourselves from serious illness, and we urge everyone who is age eligible to get vaccinated. Health systems are now faced with the “pandemic of the unvaccinated” and unvaccinated people are rushing to hospitals for care despite the fact that they have denied themselves the opportunity to avoid COVID in the first place by receiving a safe and effective vaccine. Health care staff take an oath to care for every patient who needs us, and we will continue to do the job that is being asked of us, despite the obvious actions people could take to lessen the stress on the health care system.

Jennifer Mayerle