11-month-old with COVID sent to hospital 150 miles away due to lack of bed space in Houston

Miya Shay Image
Friday, August 6, 2021
11-month-old with COVID couldn't get care in Houston
Illustrating the critical shortage seen by the Texas Medical Center, an 11-month-old girl with COVID had to be flown 150 miles away for care simply because there was no room for her in town.

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- In a sign that the delta variant is affecting more children on a daily basis, an 11-month-old girl from the Houston area had to be airlifted to Temple because no pediatric hospitals in Houston would accept her as a transfer patient.

"She needed to be intubated immediately because she was having seizures," said Patricia Darnauer, the administrator for LBJ Hospital. "We looked at all five major pediatric hospital groups and none [had beds] available."

SEE ALSO: Houston Methodist ER running at full capacity amid COVID surge: 'Highest I've ever seen'

In video and photos provided by Harris Health Systems, we see the little girl being wheeled to an air ambulance. She will be receiving treatment at Baylor Scott & White McLane Children's Medical Center, 150 miles away in Temple.

The situation is sad but not surprising for Dr. Christina Propst, who is one of the most outspoken pediatricians in Houston. Ever since the pandemic began, Propst has encouraged masking, social distancing, and being cautious to anyone who would listen.

"The emergency rooms at the major children's hospitals here in Houston, the largest medical center in the world, are extremely crowded," said Propst. "They are filling, if not full, as are the hospitals and intensive care units."

Propst and other medical providers say there are a number of reasons for the crunch in pediatric beds. First and foremost, it's clear that the delta variant of COVID-19 is affecting more children, and is more contagious.

SEE ALSO: This Houston hospital is reporting 500% increase in COVID admissions as fear of surge increases

In addition, Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV) is also increasing in the area, sending more children to hospitals. This is all taking place during summer break, where doctors are used to seeing more broken bones and other ailments caused by children playing outdoors or at camp.

"We have many patients, many patients every day," said Darnauer. "We are back beyond our pre-pandemic volumes at LBJ."

So what can worried parents do?

Propst says to get the vaccine if you're eligible. Children not old enough to be vaccinated need to wear masks when they are indoors or with groups of people. She would also like to see the state once again allow public schools to mandate masks.

SEE ALSO: Dual surge: Houston doctors see increase in children hospitalizations due to COVID-19 and RSV

"If children are not masking in schools, it will be a major problem," said Propst.

She adds that the start of the school year generally causes a lot of germs to spread around even during normal times.

"It is typical that two weeks after school we see a great surge of strep and other sources of infection. We are bracing ourselves, not a question of when, it will be bad," she said.

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