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A region overwhelmed by virus, St. Louis-area children's hospitals accepting adult patients

By Annika Merrilees, St. Louis Post-Dispatch on

Published in News & Features

ST. LOUIS, Mo. — With virus patients continuing to overwhelm area hospitals, the leaders of area children's hospitals said on Friday they have begun accepting adult patients, and Mayor Lyda Krewson announced that the city has reopened a temporary morgue.

State officials, meanwhile, said they expected even more doses of a COVID-19 vaccine, but warned that it won't be available for widespread distribution until next summer, and area leaders warned residents to stay vigilant.

The St. Louis Metropolitan Pandemic Task Force reported a total of 896 virus patients across area BJC HealthCare, Mercy, SSM Health and St. Luke's Hospital facilities — more than double the level at the beginning of November.

The region's three largest health care systems said on Friday they were sending adult patients to their children's hospitals.

St. Louis Children's Hospital took some adult patients from other BJC HealthCare facilities in the spring, and has begun doing so again in recent weeks, said Dr. Juliane Bubeck Wardenburg, division chief of pediatric critical care. And in some cases, staff from the children's hospital have volunteered to work at other BJC facilities.

Dr. Marya Strand, chief medical officer of SSM Health Cardinal Glennon Children's Hospital, said that for several weeks the facility has been sending staff to help in other hospitals. And starting this week, the children's hospital has taken some non-virus adult patients from SSM Health St. Louis University Hospital.


On Friday there were a few transferred adult patients in the hospital, Strand said, but the number is expected to grow. Of the hospital's 195 beds, 65 are for newborn intensive care, and could not be used for adults.

Strand said she expects the hospital will continue accepting adult patients through December, but it could continue even longer.

It creates a difficult scenario for children's hospitals, because adult patients require different supplies, and it takes time to adjust equipment so that it is ready to treat them, said Dr. David Wathen, chairman of Mercy Children's Hospital St. Louis' pediatrics department. The region is also getting into what is typically the busy season for pediatrics. Doctors are hoping that the precautions in place to tamp down COVID-19 will also reduce respiratory ailments and influenza.

Mercy Children's Hospital St. Louis has been accepting adult patients for almost a month, he said.


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