The AAP and Children’s Hospital Association (CHA) are asking federal officials to declare a public health emergency as pediatricians’ offices and hospitals are inundated with children seeking care for respiratory viruses and mental health concerns.
The emergency declarations requested in a letter to President Joe Biden and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra, J.D., would provide flexibility in how hospitals share resources, use space, move patients and manage workforce shortages.
“Pediatricians are rising to this challenge once again but we need federal action to allow the flexibilities and resources to support this care,” AAP CEO/Executive Vice President Mark Del Monte J.D., said in a statement. “And, we need to remain focused on how this emergency is disproportionately impacting historically under-resourced communities.”
The letter comes as more than three-quarters of the country’s pediatric hospital beds are full and many states are at 90% of capacity. Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) levels are near season peaks in some regions, while flu hospitalizations are higher than the same periods in previous seasons over the past decade, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). These challenges come on top of continuing mental health emergencies and workforce shortages. Pediatricians’ offices are facing similar demand and workforce shortages.
“Our system is stretched to its limit and without immediate attention the crisis will only worsen,” CHA CEO Mark Wietecha said in a statement.
The AAP and CHA made several requests of federal officials.
- Declare emergencies through the Stafford Act or National Emergencies Act and a public health emergency, allowing a waiver of certain Medicare, Medicaid and Children’s Health Insurance Program requirements.
- Encourage state Medicaid agencies to support telehealth, out-of-state care and needed flexibilities to manage capacity in health care facilities.
- Free up resources to support increased costs associated with capacity and workforce issues.
- Mitigate supply, equipment and drug shortages.
- Prioritize rental and excess equipment to pediatric providers.
- Provide visibility into pediatric supplies and equipment in the national stockpile.
“These flexibilities have been provided under COVID-19 and were critical during the height of the surge and ongoing fluctuations of the virus,” the groups wrote. “Children and children’s providers require the same capacity support as they strive to keep up with increasing needs of our youngest Americans.”
- CDC advisory on increased respiratory virus activity among children
- AAP policy Recommendations for Prevention and Control of Influenza in Children, 2022-2023
- AAP technical report Recommendations for Prevention and Control of Influenza in Children, 2022-2023
- AAP guidance on use of palivizumab to treat RSV
- Information from the AAP Red Book on influenza and RSV
- AAP journals/AAP News RSV article collection
- CDC FAQs about the 2022-’23 flu season
- AAP flu toolkit
- Information for parents from HealthyChildren.org on differences among respiratory illnesses
- AAP interim guidance on children’s emotional and behavioral health during the pandemic
- AAP mental health initiatives
- Information for parents from HealthyChildren.org on mental health during the pandemic
- U.S. surgeon general advisory “Protecting Youth Mental Health”