July has recorded the fastest rise in the number of COVID-19 cases among children, the Lady Ridgeway Hospital for Children (LRH) has said.
Although the LRH is the country’s largest paediatric hospital, this sudden increase in cases has left the hospital struggling to accommodate their patients, hospital director Dr G Wijesuriya told Roar Media.
At present, all six ICU beds allocated for COVID-19 patients are occupied, so the hospital has had to make the challenging decision of transferring children to other hospitals.
“We cannot accommodate all the children who test positive for COVID-19 these days,” said Dr Wijesuriya. “At the moment, the hospital beds are full. Cases reported from all parts of the country arrive here and they need hospital beds,” he explained.
The hospital’s intermediate care centre, which houses asymptomatic COVID-19 patients, is the only ward with available beds.
Since the beginning of the pandemic in 2020, the LRH has treated over 500 children, from infants to teenagers, as well as 350 parents, who tested positive for COVID-19. “When we are testing the children, at the same time, we tested the parents as well. We cannot separate the mother from the child,” Dr Wijesuriya said. The youngest patient so far was 21 days old.
There have also been concerns raised about the safety of hospital staff, especially as this one of the country’s most important healthcare institutions.
“The hospital staff is facing the risk of getting infected again as well. Somehow we have to utilise the available staff to treat COVID patients as well as other routine work. The availability of the nurses and the doctors is low; there will be a problem in the future,” the hospital director said.
While 98% of the staff has been vaccinated, a small group has refused a COVID-19 vaccine. According to Dr Wijesuriya, “There are a few who have refused the vaccine due to various scares and some religious beliefs.”
Children are infected through their parents, he said, adding, “So think about your child when going out of your home. Think about how you behave; wear a mask at all times and avoid gatherings as far as possible. Then only you can protect your child from being infected.”