“We are at the limit in the entire Ruhr area”

The hospitals in North Rhine-Westphalia are sounding the alarm because of the RS virus. In many cases, sick children have to be turned away from the clinics. An association sees an urgent need for action.

Clinics in North Rhine-Westphalia are currently observing a high number of children who are treated with respiratory diseases in hospitals. “We are at the limit in the entire Ruhr area,” reported Dominik Schneider, director of the Dortmund children’s clinic. Clinics in Münster, Düsseldorf, Duisburg and Cologne are also observing an early and strong wave of illness.

This had already started with the first cases at the University Clinic in Cologne in August, said Jörg Dötsch, Director of the Clinic for Pediatric Medicine at the University Clinic Cologne. “We were not under-occupied during the pandemic, but now we are very busy.” This development exists nationwide, as the President of the German Society for Child and Adolescent Medicine (DGKJ) reported on.

Clinics in North Rhine-Westphalia at the limit: Few free cots

The NRW Association of Leading Pediatricians and Pediatric Surgeons (VLKKD) is also alarmed. In a letter to the country’s health ministry, he reports a “dramatic supply bottleneck”.

Plush animals are lying on a bed (archive image): A large wave of infections among children is currently causing children's clinics to be full in North Rhine-Westphalia.  (Source: imago images / teutopress)Plush animals are lying on a bed (archive image): A large wave of infections among children is currently causing children’s clinics to be full in North Rhine-Westphalia. (Source: teutopress / imago images)

“Often sick children are turned away because there is no space, ambulances often have to travel long distances to find a hospital that is ready to receive hospitalization, and pediatricians or parents often phone around to find a free hospital bed,” it says there.

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Many infants and children also need oxygen

According to Schneider, the patients in Dortmund suffer “unusually early and severely” this year from so-called respiratory syncytial virus infections (RSV), a respiratory disease.

While it causes colds or coughs in older children, for example, the disease could also cause more severe courses in premature babies or previously ill patients. A quarter of the occupancy in the Dortmund children’s clinic is due to the RS virus. Many infants and children also need oxygen – this is also the case in the Duisburg Sana clinics, according to a spokeswoman.

The situation is expected to deteriorate

“Compared to previous years, we are seeing a significantly greater increase in small patients who contract the respiratory syncytial virus this early in the year,” said Martin Andree Berghäuser, chief physician at the Pediatric Clinic at the Florence Nightingale Hospital in Düsseldorf.

Seven children with severe RSV respiratory diseases are currently being treated there. But the doctors there also observe stubborn colds or pneumonia in their patients.

Usually, between November and Easter, doctors saw that such infections were increasing in children. The current development is still related, among other things, to the corona pandemic, explained Axel Gerschlauer, spokesman for the professional association of paediatricians in North Rhine-Westphalia. Accordingly, the immune system had “a year off” due to the contact restrictions, lockdown and the corona rules.

In addition, the heavy workload in pediatrics is a “well-known structural problem”: “In the case of flat rates, there is no meaningful differentiation between children and adults, and child care is much more complex,” said Gerschlauer. The children’s clinics should therefore be better financed, he said.

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Association sees an urgent need for action

The VLKKD expects the situation to deteriorate in winter. The main reason for this will be the lack of nursing staff, it is said. According to a recent survey by the VLKKD, a third of the children’s clinics adhere to the so-called “Nursing Personnel Lower Limits Ordinance” (PPUGV). That means: you consistently close beds if not enough staff is available.

In order to avoid a “collapse in the children’s clinics”, the association sees an urgent need for action. Among other things, the Ministry of Health should consider a temporary suspension of the PPUGV, according to the proposal.

DGKJ President Dötsch emphasized that the clinics work well together. “It is important that we have good networks.” In the event of bottlenecks, patients could be relocated. Especially now in autumn and before winter, adults should definitely get vaccinated against the flu and also against the coronavirus, advised the doctor.

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