Berlin's children's hospitals are overloaded

style="float: right; margin-bottom: 10px; font-weight: 600;"Thu 23rd Sep, 2021

Due to respiratory infections, sick newborns, accidents and various other illnesses, the children's hospitals in Berlin and the pediatric intensive care units have been stretched to the limit for weeks. The Association of Senior Pediatricians and Pediatric Surgeons (VLKKD) points this out in a written statement.

At present unusually many children must be treated for the autumn beginning in hospitals. The cause of the overload, however, is the acute nursing shortage. This leads to the fact that on the children's wards increased beds must be closed, because otherwise no sufficient supply can be guaranteed."At the moment, the situation is so acute that we regularly have to take children or young people to hospitals in Brandenburg," says VLKKD delegate Beatrix Schmidt. She is the chief physician of pediatrics and adolescent medicine at St. Joseph Hospital in Tempelhof-Schöneberg. In her clinic alone, 28 of 50 beds in the pediatric ward are currently closed due to the nursing shortage. This has nothing to do with the current strike, which is only taking place in the state-owned clinics.

"In addition, not only ours, but also the other children's hospitals in Berlin are currently regularly turning away children they would have admitted for observation under normal circumstances," says Schmidt. For example, if a toddler has a high fever, but the reason is not yet clear, he says.Some parents have to be put off until the next day so that the hospital staffs havemore time to look for admissions at other clinics. This is a difficult situation for doctors and patients alike, he said.

Infections increase during the colder months of the year

"Such an approach can be extremely dangerous," warns Schmidt. It is conceivable, for example, that appendicitis or other threatening illness could go undetected. In many Berlin hospitals, moreover, children would have to be placed in non-specialist departments, adolescents in adult intensive care units or girls in gynecology.

"If we don't do something now, we're headed for disaster in the winter," says the VLKKD delegate. Cold infections are known to increase in the colder seasons. A flu epidemic is also possible, she said. "That worries us a lot because we are already short of capacity."

The Association of Leading Pediatricians and Pediatric Surgeons therefore appeals to politicians to "urgently take care of the medical care of Berlin's children and adolescents in the short term." As a measure, it demands to set the regulation to the care personnel lower limits (PpUGV) out of force, as soon as the supply of the child and young people is no longer secured because of lack of beds. The PpUGV regulates how many patients may be cared for by one nurse - but without taking into account the different nursing needs.

"In the medium term, further solutions are urgently needed," the association demands. Meaning: more staff and better working conditions for nursing staff. "The red-red-green Senate has failed to make the nursing profession more attractive in recent years and to ensure that there are enough new recruits," says Schmidt.

She complains that the newly introduced generalist nursing training, which also brings many advantages, has meant that trainees in Berlin can no longer specialize in the profession of pediatric nursing. "That could be one reason why some interested people, don't even choose the profession anymore because they want to work mainly with children."

Covid-19 doesn't play a role

An interesting detail: Covid-19 plays virtually no role in children's illnesses - or so Schmidt confirms, and so it is heard from physicians at other clinics. Most children would currently be treated for RSV (respiratory syncytial virus).A cold disease that usually occurs especially in the winter months, but this year increased in the summer. Doctors believe there is a so-called rebound effect: Children who have hardly experienced any infections due to the lack of contact in winter catch up with them late, so to speak, because their immune system was not sufficiently trained in winter.In addition, there are various other common diseases and accidents. Covid-19 infections also occur, but most children come to the clinic because of another illness and are then also tested positive for the coronavirus.

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