Why are NJ hospitals suddenly filling up with adults and kids?
As we head into the home stretch of 2022, hospitals across New Jersey are filling up with patients suffering from many different illnesses. Officials are watching the numbers very carefully.
Cathy Bennett, the president and CEO of the NJ Hospital Association, said the Garden State is getting slammed with a wide variety of viruses.
“Flu activity is high in all regions of the state. We’re seeing elevated levels of rhinoviruses, enteroviruses, RSV, COVID,” she said.
Watching the data
She noted the Hospital Association is tracking patient data every day, and while admissions continue to climb there is sufficient capacity to handle the influx.
“Our hospitals are staffed up and caring for patients, this is a seasonal scenario and it’s not uncommon for hospitals, they’re prepared to surge up when demand is high.”
Bennett said ER visits have shot higher over the past few months.
“They’re more than double right now than they have been over previous years. Parents are coming to the emergency departments to figure out what their children have. Is it flu, is it COVID, is it RSV or it is some other virus?” she said.
She pointed out that in early November, pediatric hospitalizations surged and most patients had RSV, but now the majority of kids in the hospital are there because of influenza.
Why is this happening?
She said no one knows for sure but children and adults have been less exposed to viruses over the past three years than normal.
Bennett said most babies usually encounter respiratory viruses in the first 18 months of life “and then they develop some immunity as they recover. But thanks to social distancing and masking, we have a whole birth cohort of kids that has never been exposed before.”
Caregivers are exhausted
Bennett said that ever since the pandemic started more than two years ago, hospital staffs have been on high alert and exhausted.
“It does take a toll, and we’re beginning to see that in terms of the resilience and the same expectation that a lot of New Jerseyans have, which is when are we going to get through this," she said.
She said that the recent trend of incivility and violent outbursts in the health care workplace is disturbing, especially because nurses and doctors were hailed as heroes when the pandemic began.
“They keep showing up and they keep treating what is an extraordinarily growing number of individuals that are presenting with these respiratory illnesses," she said.