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Connecticut hospitals at or near capacity with RSV and flu patients

Some feel they're beginning to turn a corner in terms of capacity

NEW HAVEN, Conn. — Two of Connecticut's largest children's hospitals are at or near capacity, dealing with kids with RSV, a respiratory virus. 

As of Monday afternoon, Yale New Haven Health and Yale New Haven Children's Hospital were at nearly 100% capacity with the Intensive Care Unit at 85% capacity. 

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It's a similar story at Connecticut Children's in Hartford, where they're full too, but the story is starting to take a turn for the better. At least, that's what they've noticed over the last couple of days. Dr. Juan Salazar, the Physician-in-Chief at Connecticut Children's, is cautiously optimistic. 

“We were looking at 30 kids waiting for a bed at any one time a couple of weeks ago. We got up to 30. That’s a lot. And so the lull means, we’re sort of going back to a normal surge," Dr. Salazar said. "I want to make sure we wait. That we know exactly if this is just a day or two of a lull, and more is coming, I don’t know.”  

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To get to this point, Connecticut Children's has expanded their capacity by putting patient beds in playrooms and having their employees step out of their usual roles and work overtime.

Dr. Salazar praised his staff for stepping up in a time of need. 

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"But they're tired," Dr. Salazar said.

With the peak of flu season right around the corner, they're hoping things don't get worse.

“Please get vaccinated. There’s a very effective vaccine that is going to prevent you as a parent or your children from coming into the hospital," Dr. Salazar said.

They have similar concerns at Yale New Haven Health. A spokesperson says, "YNHH and YNHCH are, like many other hospitals across the U.S., experiencing early, unusually high seasonal levels of inpatients at this time. The majority of these cases are related to RSV and flu with some cases of COVID."

FOX61 spoke with a pediatrician in the New Haven area, who works at Child and Adolescent Healthcare. Dr. Shannon Martinello said she has not seen a slow-down in recent days. She is still seeing daily cases of RSV in her office.

"We're seeing kids with breathing that's labored enough or oxygen that is low enough that we're having to send them into the emergency room," Dr. Martinello said. 

Dr Martinello has heard from patients who have told her there is no room for them in the local hospitals. One family reported back to her that they were sitting on a curb all night outside of a CT hospital, waiting for treatment. 

"At one point, we got a memo that there were actually no pediatric ICU beds in all of New England," Dr. Martinello said.

Why are they piling up so fast? Dr. Martinello said it's a combination of kids being exposed to viruses for the first time in a while, after having worn masks for two years. It's also not just RSV at play, it's COVID and Rhinovirus, too. 

"They're getting on on top of another on top of another because all of these viruses are out there in pretty significant numbers right now," Dr. Martinello said. 

Now, most children who get RSV will not be hospitalized with it. 

“Most kids who get RSV will have a very mild respiratory illness. Especially the older kids. Kids that are younger, that’s the situation where RSV is going to be more problematic," Dr. Salazar said.

For those who do not have severe illness from the virus, Dr. Salazar said it's best to contact your pediatrician. However, the hospitals will never turn away a patient. 

In a few years from now, Connecticut Children's will be more prepared to handle a surge like this one. They received a grant from the state to add about 90 more hospital beds by then.

Julia LeBlanc is a reporter at FOX61 News. She can be reached at jleblanc@fox61.com Follow her on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.


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