December 9, 2022

Cribs Shortage Amid RSV Spikes Cause U.S. Hospitals to Reach Critical Levels

Cribs Shortage Amid RSV Spikes Cause U.S. Hospitals to Reach Critical Levels

Image Source: CNN / Fox5 Las Vegas

You may have heard about the shortages in the U.S. affecting everything from children’s Tylenol to diabetic medications, but nurses are now shedding light on a shortage no one may have seen coming: crib shortages in pediatric hospitals. 

Many of the shortages that the U.S. is experiencing right now are stemming from a variety of reasons: production in other countries that produce many of the resources used in health, such as medications and medical supplies, are backed up and delayed; costs have risen; and to top it all of, many hospitals are seeing what is being dubbed the “tridemic” of flu, COVID-19, and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) infections hitting children and adults at unusually high rates and at earlier times than most flu seasons. 

The situation is so dire that the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and Children’s Hospital Association (CHA) even sent a letter to President Biden and Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra asking them to declare a national emergency to “support a national response to the alarming surge of pediatric respiratory illnesses, including respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) and influenza, along with the continuing children’s mental health emergency.”

Where are the Crib Shortages?

According to CNN, hospitals in Michigan have resorted to bringing old cribs out of storage to keep up with patient demand, while hospitals in Delaware Valley have seen their orders for more cribs be canceled. 

"These shortages vary from items being on backorder with no estimated shipping date to product discontinuation without notice. The reasons include transportation issues and labor shortages," Cynthia Zheng, director of pharmacy operations and support services at Wilmington-based Nemours Children's Health Delaware Valley, told CNN. "At Nemours Children's Health, these supply challenges are magnified due to pediatric populations needing more specialized equipment to accommodate different stages of growth. In addition, the high volumes as a result of an early spike in RSV have only put more strain on an already stressed system."

The critical shortages threatening patient care even extend past U.S. borders: One nurse on TikTok even alleged that at her hospital in Ontario, a two-year-old pediatric patient coded and without any stretchers available, the toddler was treated on the floor of the hospital and sadly, ended up passing away—still on the floor. (Note: was not able to verify her claims.)

Youtube video

Other Critical Shortages

Along with shortages for cribs, hospitals are also seeing other critical resources reach dangerously low levels. For instance, ventilators have been in demand at levels not seen since the early days of the pandemic. While many children who develop RSV will recover at home, very young infants and anyone with other medical conditions are at high risk of needing hospital care to treat the virus, so ventilators have been needed to treat the high influx of RSV-infected pediatric patients right now. 

In Michigan, pediatric shortages also extend to other supplies beyond cribs. “We are out of a different formula it seems like every week,” Danielle Smith, a NICU nurse at Hurley Children’s Hospital in Flint tells “A big one we’ve been struggling with is our syringe feeding pumps, we have an order in for replacements but it’s going to be months before we ever see them and we ended up having to rent some. We were low on things like PICC lines and UVCs for a bit, but that’s gotten better.”

Many widely-used and vital medications are also in shortage right now. The FDA lists amoxicillin–one of the most commonly-prescribed antibiotics for children given for seemingly “mild” ailments like ear infections and Strep throat—is in shortage from many manufacturers right now. The reasons given? “Other” and “Demand increase.” One mother in Colorado reported calling 18 different pharmacies in her area to fill her son’s prescription for Amoxicillin after being warned by his pediatrician that there was a shortage of the medicine. 

Other medications on the FDA’s shortage list include:

How Healthcare Workers are Responding

By now, we are all familiar with how nursing shortages have already been at an all-time high and that is undoubtedly also contributing to shortages in hospitals—hospitals are reaching critical levels because they may not have the staff to care for critically ill patients at times when hospitals are not adequately prepared for an influx will only further lead to staff burnout and affect retention levels. 

All of that translates to challenging situations for nurses who may have already been working in difficult circumstances. But nurses are responding to current shortages in inspiring ways as well, by sharing their stories on social media, encouraging parents to take steps to protect their children from serious infections and complications, and getting creative with patient care measures. 

For instance, nurses are educating parents on how to safely dispense adult medications in pediatric doses in light of the national children’s medication shortage.

Source: @NurseBeBrave/Twitter

The AAP are also on top of the ongoing issue and have clearly explained the dire shortages to the White House administration. In their letter to President Biden, they asked for emergency authorization in order to help alleviate some of the supply shortages: 

“Across the country, more than three-quarters of pediatric hospital beds are full, and many states are reporting more than 90 percent of their pediatric beds are occupied. This is mirrored in community settings, where ambulatory pediatric practices are facing tremendous demand and workforce shortages. Capacity constraints at children’s hospitals and pediatric offices are resulting in more children being cared for in community and adult hospitals which may have limited or no capacity to care for children…

We ask you to mitigate the supply, equipment and drug shortages that also threaten the ability to provide consistent and reliable care for pediatric patients. We request prioritization of rental and excess equipment to pediatric providers. We request visibility into the pediatric supplies and equipment in the national stockpile to focus on release and replenishment of needed pediatric specific supplies, equipment and pharmaceuticals to those expanding pediatric care. The availability of these supplies, equipment and pharmaceuticals are only useful if there are trained pediatric professionals available to ensure safe and proper care of children, which the flexibilities above would support.” 

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