The Potluck

MN children’s hospitals facing severe bed shortage, pediatricians warn

By: - November 22, 2022 12:12 pm

HOUSTON, TEXAS – AUGUST 25: An EMS medic from the Houston Fire Department prepares to transport a Covid-19 positive girl, age 2, to a hospital on August 25, 2021 in Houston, Texas. The child’s mother said she had come down with fever, runny nose and had begun vomiting after attending a day care center the week before. The child tested positive for the virus on this Monday. Texas’ largest city is seeing a major surge of the Delta variant of the Coronavirus, taxing EMS personnel and overwhelming city hospitals. Photo by John Moore/Getty Images.

There are just two pediatric intensive care beds available in the entire state of Minnesota, per the latest data from the Department of Health

The other 142 beds are occupied mostly by children suffering from a variety of respiratory ailments, including RSV (respiratory syncytial virus) and influenza. Pediatricians are warning that pressure on the childrens’ wings of Minnesota’s hospitals has hit an alarming level at an unusually early time of year. 

The children’s bed shortage is at least as severe as at any other time during the COVID-19 pandemic. For most of this year pediatric intensive care bed capacity has run in the double-digits, with about 10% of beds free. This time last year there were between 10 and 15 beds free, and around Thanksgiving of 2020 there were between 20 and 30 PICU spots available.

Regular children’s hospital beds are also in short supply, with about 29 beds, or 7% of the statewide total, available. 

The total number of pediatric beds has also declined since the early days of the pandemic, with 527 total beds in the fall of 2020 compared to 438 beds today. The reasons for the reduction weren’t readily available.

The numbers underscore a reality that the COVID-19 pandemic made painfully apparent: respiratory viruses exact a tremendous toll on society even in the best of years, one that often hits children the hardest. Every parent knows that the daycare and elementary years are a time of near-constant colds, viruses and ailments. Those diseases caused tens of thousands of deaths annually before the pandemic, and untold additional costs in terms of absenteeism and general suffering. 

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Christopher Ingraham
Christopher Ingraham

Christopher Ingraham covers greater Minnesota and reports on data-driven stories across the state. He's the author of the book "If You Lived Here You'd Be Home By Now," about his family's journey from the Baltimore suburbs to rural northwest Minnesota. He was previously a data reporter for the Washington Post.