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KCUR: Hospitals across 4 states band together to treat acute pediatric cases amid 'tripledemic'

By Holly Edgell

Every morning at about 7 a.m., staff members in the transport department at Children’s Mercy Hospital in Kansas City, Missouri, start calling dozens of hospitals in the region.

They’re looking for information from hospitals that provide pediatric care in Iowa, Kansas, Missouri and Nebraska – the states that make up the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) Region 7.

Specifically, they ask: “How many pediatric ICU beds do you have available?”

This became an urgent question for hospitals that treat children when the so-called “tripledemic” of RSV, COVID-19 and flu cases began to fill hospitals in the fall.

At Children’s Mercy in Kansas City, when transport department staffers complete their round of phone calls to find pediatric ICU beds, they compile data about which hospitals can take patients and send it out to colleagues across Region 7. Then, when needed, Children’s Mercy dispatches a helicopter to make the transfer.

“We have a phenomenal critical care pediatric transport team,” said Dr. Jennifer Watts, chief emergency management medical officer at Children’s Mercy, which serves both Kansas and Missouri. “We offered our services to other hospitals to take a child from a referring hospital to Omaha for example, if they were the ones that had the bed.”


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