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A Kid’s Birthday Wish: A Pediatric Hospital Bed

The Coronavirus death numbers are continuously rising around the world. Statistics show that over 400 Americans on average are dying from the virus each day and the number of kids infected with RSV and other respiratory viruses is unusually high.

The New York Times reported that hospitals around the country, from regional medical centers to smaller local facilities are closing down pediatric units. The reason is stark economics: Institutions make more money from adult patients.

In April, Henrico Doctors’ Hospital in Richmond, Va., ended its pediatric inpatient services. In July, Tufts Children’s Hospital in Boston followed suit. Shriners Children’s New England said it will close its inpatient unit by the end of the year. Pediatric units in Colorado Springs, Raleigh, N.C., and Doylestown, Pa., have closed as well.

“They’re asking: Should we take care of kids we don’t make any money off of or use the bed for an adult who needs a bunch of expensive tests?” said Dr. Daniel Rauch, chief of pediatric hospital medicine for Tufts Medicine, who headed its general pediatric unit until it closed over the summer. “If you’re a hospital, that’s a no-brainer.”


Lachlan Rutledge, 6, has a connective tissue disorder, severe allergies, and asthma, which have landed him repeatedly in pediatric intensive care. The New York Times Children lost their beds in the hospital. Lachlan Rutledge is one of them. Lachlan Rutledge just celebrated his sixth birthday with a wish for a pediatric hospital bed in northeast Oklahoma. According to The New York Times, the kindergartner has a connective tissue disorder, severe allergies, and asthma. Those conditions repeatedly landed him in the pediatric intensive care unit at Ascension St. John Medical Center in Tulsa, with collapsed veins and oxygen levels so low, he was unresponsive to his mother’s voice.


Lachlan during a recent visit to the overcrowded emergency room at The Children’s Hospital at Saint Francis — the only remaining inpatient pediatric option in Tulsa.  The New York Times.

But in April the hospital closed its children’s floor to make room for more adult beds. So, on a September morning, after coming down with Covid for the fourth time and with what looked like bilateral pneumonia, Lachlan was struggling to breathe in an overcrowded emergency room at the Children’s Hospital at Saint Francis — the only remaining inpatient pediatric option in Tulsa.

Many hospitals have converted children’s beds to adult I.C.U. beds during the pandemic and are reluctant to change them back.  Now, staff shortages, inflation — drug costs have increased 37 percent per patient compared to pre-pandemic levels — low Medicaid reimbursement and dwindling federal subsidies granted during the pandemic have left some health centers operating on negative margins and eager to prioritize the most profitable patients.

Critically ill children are four times as likely to die in hospitals and twice as likely to die in trauma centers that scored low on a “pediatric readiness” test, according to research.  Only one-third of children in a national research survey had access to an emergency department deemed highly “pediatric-ready,” and of those, nine out of 10 lived closer to a less-prepared one.

Nearly three years into the coronavirus pandemic, the long-lasting consequences of covid-19 are becoming more evident. According to a report from The Washington Post, the U.S. government estimates that between 7 million and 23 million Americans — including 1 million who can no longer work — are suffering from the long-term effects of infection with the virus that causes covid. Those numbers are expected to rise as covid becomes an endemic disease.

A large Scottish study in Nature Communications found that many people do not have full recovery months after being infected. Between six and 18 months after infection, 5% of people had not recovered and 42 percent reported partial recovery. That study found that the risk of long covid was greater among women, older people, and those who live in economically disadvantaged communities.

Jill Pell, a professor of public health at the University of Glasgow who led the research, emphasized that the study revealed the wide-ranging impact of long covid on people’s lives. “There are lots of different impacts going beyond health to quality of life, employment, schooling, and the ability to look after yourself,” she said.

Long-haul symptoms range widely from person to person. In the Scottish study, the most commonly reported symptoms were cardiovascular, including palpitations and chest pain, breathlessness, and “brain fog,” or reduced mental acuity.

Some people report lingering fatigue, tinnitus, ringing in their ears, and tremors that can be debilitating. Others, including Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.), report recurrent pins-and-needles feelings.

Since July 2021, long covid can be considered a disability under the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA).

Long covid can also strip away the equivalent of a decade’s worth of aerobic fitness, according to a large-scale new scientific review of long covid patients and exercise.