The children’s clinics and practices in the country are struggling with a flood of young patients due to waves of infection. Health Minister Holetschek sees the problem with the lack of staff – and proposes measures.
To relieve the overcrowded children’s hospitals in Bavaria, Health Minister Klaus Holetschek has spoken out in favor of deviations from the minimum staffing limit and a reduction in bureaucracy. The clinics should make the best possible use of the available capacities and take all reasonable measures to improve the situation, said the CSU politician on Thursday after a crisis meeting with doctors and infectiologists in Munich.
The reason for the overcrowded clinics are severe respiratory diseases, from which an extremely large number of children are currently suffering. The young patients have mostly been infected with the RS virus, which can be particularly dangerous for infants and small children. Influenza and pneumonia are also common. According to doctors, the wave of infections could continue for several weeks – the capacities in the clinics are already exhausted.
In the state parliament on Thursday, the opposition voiced some sharp criticism of the government’s health policy. The current emergency situation is encountering “structural deficits that have existed for a long time,” said Ruth Waldmann (SPD), a member of parliament. Holetschek resolutely rejected the criticism: “SPD and Greens misjudge the causes of the current enormous burden in the children’s hospitals”. The culprit is not a lack of funding or organization, but the increasing number of RSV infections and the enormous shortage of staff in the health sector.
“In some cases it can make sense to temporarily use nursing staff from adult wards so that the pediatric nurses can concentrate on the younger patients,” said Holetschek. The Greens had also spoken out in favor of this in the state parliament as an “emergency nail”. “Before these young patients are not cared for, we must resort to such measures,” said Green MP Christina Haubrich.
In addition, Holetschek said that schools and after-school care centers should refrain from submitting certificates for sick children. The doctors in the practices and clinics would now have to take care of the children and not the bureaucracy. Other conceivable measures to relieve the burden are the accommodation of the children overnight in a day clinic, the critical review of all hospital admissions and ultimately also the postponement of interventions that can be postponed.
“We’re at the breaking point,” said Matthias Keller, head of the Third Order Children’s Hospital in Passau and Chairman of the South German Society for Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine. The rooms are often double occupied, there are sometimes no monitors to monitor the children and devices for respiratory support. “We have regions in Bavaria where we are already sewn to the brim in our normal state.” The result: “Some patient rooms are like dormitory beds, you really have to crawl over the beds to get to the sick child because the parents’ bed is next to the patient’s bed .”
The situation is no better outside of the Free State. “Out of 110 children’s hospitals, 43 facilities did not have a single bed free on the normal ward. There are only 83 free beds in pediatric children’s intensive care units throughout Germany – that’s 0.75 free beds per clinic, i.e. less than one per location,” said the German Interdisciplinary Association for Intensive Care and Emergency Medicine (DIVI) in Munich.
The doctors see one of the main reasons for the wave of infections in the corona measures. Normally, 90 percent of all children are infected with the RS virus in the first two years of life. “That didn’t happen, then the antibodies are missing, which is why we now have this pronounced wave,” explained Keller.
In addition, the pandemic “shifted the waves of infection over the year, which normally occur at a certain rhythm, so that we have had a continuous wave of infections for a year,” said Dominik Ewald, chairman of the local professional association of paediatricians. Nursery and kindergarten children, like elementary school students, are exposed to constant stress from infections, which never really allows the immune system to rest.
Holetschek appealed to all nurses who no longer work in the profession to help in the crisis: “The current RSV wave hits the professional nurses with full force – this applies in particular to nannies! Every additional helping hand counts.” Despite the difficult situation, nobody has to worry that sick children will not be treated.
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