Cook Children's delaying all non-urgent surgeries to free up space in crowded hospital

Between very sick children and staffing shortages, Cook Children’s Hospital in Fort Worth is delaying elective surgeries. 

The hospital said surgeries that require patient admission but are not deemed urgent or to treat a life-threatening condition will be rescheduled until Oct. 11 or later.

"Any surgery that's deemed urgent or emergent, we will continue to provide those surgeries and the post-op care necessary," said Cheryl Peterson, the chief nursing officer for Cook Children’s.

"This is not a decision our administrative team takes lightly," said Stan Davis, the hospital's chief operating officer. "We are doing everything in our power to ensure every child who needs us is taken care of."

These surgeries are not simply cosmetic or unnecessary procedures. Many are very important for a child’s health and well-being.

"Some of the cancer surgeries, they need to be done soon, but not right this minute. Sometimes you’re dealing with some of the abdominal surgeries that can be stayed or put off a few days or a few weeks," pediatrician Dr. Gary Floyd explained.

In Dallas, Children's Medical Center also acknowledged a high capacity of patients, unusual for this time of year, but not enough to postpone elective procedures, and not what they would call a dire situation.

While in Fort Worth, Cook Children’s is finding a way to care for local kids who are critically ill.

"We are able to make adjustments for very acute needs of children who are local in our community that 

But Cook Children’s said that with the ongoing surge of COVID-19 among children, it must make sure it will have enough beds for children who are critically ill.

Children often need intensive care beds post-surgery or other important procedures.

"When there are no intensive care beds, which there are not, then you have to find other accommodations or put off the surgeries," Dr. Floyd added.

Its seven-day rolling average shows COVID cases now higher than at any time during the pandemic.

Right now, there are 39 children with COVID-19 in the hospital and 13 of them are in intensive care. 

"Of those COVID patients, probably 30%-40% of them are not just hospitalized, they require intensive care," Dr. Floyd said.


Another illness putting strain on the system is a respiratory disease called RSV.

"I’ve never seen RSV or respiratory syncytial virus in the summer. It’s a really unprecedented rise that coupled with COVID, the delta variant in children is requiring such hospitalization," Peterson said.

To make room for children contracting COVID, the pediatric hospital had to convert a second surgical care unit to a COVID care unit.

"Which has been the first time we've had to do this during the pandemic," Petersen said. "We've had as many as 51 COVID positive patients in the medical center."

Cook Children’s said it has recently been forced to send some patients to other hospitals several hours away or even to other states to open up space in the hospital. 

Children's hospitals across the state and across the country are having the same problem.

Idaho and Alaska, for example, are facing an especially dire situation. Hospitals there are being forced to turn away patients of all ages because of the COVID-19 surge.

Health care facilities are rationing health care services and institute a triage system where only the sickest patients are being admitted.

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