During Respiratory Illness Surge, the Peds ED at GBMC is Here
The state of pediatric emergency care has changed significantly in our region. In addition to some hospitals closing their units, staffing shortages have been made worse by the pandemic. This has put incredible pressure on those that have remained open, like GBMC.
GBMC runs the only 24/7 pediatrician-staffed, pediatric ED remaining in Baltimore County. But to care for all children in the community, a combined Pediatric ED and Inpatient Unit with eight inpatient beds and five ED beds is not nearly enough.
Beginning in the summer months of 2022, staff saw significant surges in respiratory illnesses. Where a typical season for RSV and rhinovirus runs from November to March, the ED was seeing illness peaks much earlier. Both the volume and acuity of cases caused unbearably long wait times for families and shined a bright spotlight on the lack of resources to address the need.
“I want people to understand these surges affect us, too,” Laura Scott, MD, FAAP, Director of Pediatric Inpatient and Emergency Medicine at GBMC, said. “It hurts my heart to see kids in the waiting room or the hallway. That’s not the care I want for them. Our team works tirelessly to provide the best care possible for these families despite a lack of resources. We want better for our community and are not satisfied with families having to wait so long to see us.”
As other hospitals close their pediatric doors, the depth of need for these services is too big to ignore. GBMC is committed to keeping board-certified pediatricians, pediatric nurses specifically trained to care for children, child life specialists, and on-call sexual assault and domestic violence services available 24/7 for the community.
“If we don’t do it, who will?” Dr. Scott said. “I know how much everyone here loves caring for kids, and we know we can do it well. We know we can do it better than a lot of other people. We want to provide amazing care and show it can be done in a community hospital.”
K. Sarae Baum, MSN, RN, CPEN, Assistant Nurse Manager for Emergency/Inpatient Pediatrics & Behavioral Health, shared stories of families and visitors taking their frustration out on nurses and staff because wait times were so long. While the frustration, stress, and fear of having a sick child is real, Baum wanted people to know there is a person under that mask, one who really cares about your child and their health.
“We care very much about these kids,” Baum said. “We are in this because we want to care for children and families, and it hurts us because we understand how difficult it is to keep a baby comfortable or a toddler entertained. We are doing the best we can.”
Oftentimes the stress and concern of caring for a sick child can feel overwhelming and uncertain, especially when sickness peaks outside of normal business hours. GBMC's easy Know Before You Go reference guide allays fears and helps direct parents and caregivers to the most appropriate course of action.
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The future of Pediatric EDs is uncertain, but what is clear is that there is a future. Having a place to take your child that is accessible, available, timely, and adequately and expertly staffed and supplied is what we want for our loved ones, and GBMC HealthCare is committed to making sure it’s available for yours.