Park Ridge

NBC 5 Exclusive: An Inside Look at the RSV Surge

Advocate Children’s Hospital in Park Ridge takes NBC 5 into the emergency department to show us how they are working to accommodate caring for an influx of children suffering from RSV, the flu and COVID-19

NBC Universal, Inc.

Advocate Children’s Hospital in Park Ridge is one of many area pediatric hospitals dealing with unprecedented demand.

“I have never seen pediatric medicine like this in my practice, in my career,” said Dr. John Howard, the site director for the pediatric emergency room.

Molly Bacilek has spent 25 years as a pediatric nurse.

“I can honestly say I have never seen not only a surge like we’re seeing now with RSV, but also one that started as early as this one did,” Bacilek said.

The staff at Advocate Children’s Park Ridge campus says RSV, respiratory syncytial virus, has been relentless.

“I think you don’t really know until it effects your family. You don’t really understand it until your child is sick,” said Sylvia Perez Smith, a nurse practitioner.

For most of the fall, RSV has been the main concern, but now flu cases are on the rise.

“Influenza is definitely surging up,” Dr. Howard said.

The wait time for the emergency room is surging as well, to as much as 10 hours.

“We see all those patients on the waitlist and when we see we have no rooms available, we’re just overwhelmed,” sad Giovani Macias, a respiratory therapist.

“Our hospital has been near or at capacity for really, I would say, close to two months now,” Bacilek said.

“Portions of the waiting room have been repurposed to create patient beds where they weren’t any,” said Dr. Howard.

Advocate Children’s also opened up a new “Fast Track” area on Nov. 7, to accommodate patients with less acuity, who may be able to go home the same day.

Staffing has also been problematic, with some people retiring or taking positions in other departments or at other hospitals.

As a respiratory therapist, Macias typically works 12-hour shifts, but now he’s working five days a week to help meet demand.

“Additional people who don’t typically work in the emergency department are helping in the emergency department. Anything to help to keep up with the patient volume,” Dr. Howard said.

He said patient volumes can be two-to-three times what the hospital would typically see, which means they are taking care of between 100 and 130 sick kids a day.

Staffers we spoke to say they believe the numbers will go even higher.

“It is common that after the holidays the number of sick kids goes up drastically, but we’re prepared for it,” Macias said

Doctors are asking families to do their part by staying home when they’re sick. They also are urging vaccinations, including the updated bivalent booster for those eligible and the flu shot for anyone over the age of six months.

Contact Us