COVID-19 patients pushing Children’s Healthcare hospitals to capacity

ATLANTA — The number of children hospitalized with COVID-19 at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta is more than three times higher on Friday than it was just a month ago.

Several times over the past two days, the Georgia Coordinating Center has listed Atlanta’s pediatric emergency rooms as “overcrowded.”

Channel 2 investigative reporter Justin Gray asked Children’s Healthcare how many children were hospitalized with COVID-19 exactly a month ago. Right as kids were going back to school, it was 18 patients. Now, it’s 61.

And at many points on Friday, Egleston’s ER was listed as overcrowded on the website used to direct ambulances in emergencies.

”It came to a point where we were waiting so long, she had to be sedated,” said parent Diana Lopez.

Her 2-year-old twins have severe asthma.

But she told Gray that she’s never experienced anything like when she rushed her daughter to Children’s Healthcare at Scottish Rite in August with breathing problems.

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”It took seven hours to get a room because the hospital is maxed out. There were no rooms,” Lopez said.

At several points on Thursday and Friday, Children’s Healthcare’s ERs have been listed as “overcrowded” and “busy” on the statewide site that guides emergency medical service teams.

Currently, 32 children are hospitalized at Children’s with acute and active COVID-19. Another 29 remain hospitalized for continuing COVID-19 care. That’s a total of 61 children hospitalized. That number was only 18 at this time last month.

”I mean, you walk in there, the environment is chaotic. There’s people sitting outside the waiting rooms, there’s people sitting in the hallways,” Lopez said.

It’s not just COVID-19 cases straining the hospital capacity. Cases of respiratory syncytial virus, too, are hitting hard as children are back in school.

Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta tells us: “We are seeing higher volumes in our emergency departments and urgent care centers due to a variety of respiratory viruses, such as COVID-19 and RSV. It is important to note that these illnesses do not always require emergency care.”

Children’s said it will never turn away a child at its ER but wait times on its website are all listed at two hours plus.

”She was just crying at the top of her lungs and we couldn’t do anything. We had to wait we had to wait it out until we got a room,” Lopez said.

Children’s said it will always treat any child who shows up at their ER, no matter the capacity challenges.

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