Seattle Children’s Hospital emergency room sees unprecedented demand

Kids have become more exposed to germs as school resumes and mask guidelines relax, medical director says

Seattle Children’s Hospital is seeing "unprecedented demand" in its emergency department, resulting in longer wait times and providers seeing some patients in the waiting room, officials said this week.

Seattle Children’s Emergency Medicine medical director Tony Woodward said after a lull at the start of the pandemic, the hospital has seen a steady increase in patients that have eclipsed a previous high in 2019, The Seattle Times reported.

He said the demand is driven by community pediatrician offices under strain from full patient loads or staffing shortages as well as an influx of viral-related illness. As school and day care have resumed and mask requirements have been rescinded, many children are being exposed to germs for the first time in years, he said.

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Seattle Children’s Hospital is seeing an increase in emergency room patients at an unprecedented demand. 

Seattle Children’s Hospital is seeing an increase in emergency room patients at an unprecedented demand. 

The hospital serves patients from Wyoming, Alaska, Montana and Idaho. Wildfire smoke in the region has also exacerbated respiratory illnesses, Woodward said.

The hospital has opened additional beds and increased physician staffing. Even so, sometimes more patients arrive than there are beds in the emergency department, Woodward said.

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"We try to use every additional square foot we have to provide care, recognizing that a waiting room with other people is not a place to have confidential conversations," Woodward said.

Despite the high demand, Woodward emphasized that someone who needs immediate medical attention should come to the emergency department without hesitation.