Dear Southwest Pediatrics Families,
Thanks so much for your patience as we constantly adjust to the COVID pandemic. Just when we think we think we’re over the hump, there’s another hurdle to jump! This particular season, combined with an unprecedented RSV season (normally January/February) and back-to-school, has been especially challenging for us. Our call and visit volumes as well as the acuity (overall sickness) of our patients have been much higher than typical. The complexity of parents’ concerns is higher as well, requiring a physician’s input to complex questions more than usual. Our staff are also parents and family members, having to juggle the ever-changing requirements of school/childcare/quarantine.
Austin ICUs and emergency departments are experiencing extraordinary strain, overwhelmed with very, very sick children. These include many children with COVID, much more than with previous surges. Our children’s hospitals are asking us to lighten their load as much as possible, and keep as many children out of the hospital or emergency rooms.
So things are tough, but there are some temporary things we can do to lighten the load and make sure we can take care of everybody. Here are some temporary changes that we need to make for the next few months to respond wisely to the needs of our patients and staff as we head into a traditionally “sick” season.
We will move some well child appointments to later in the Fall, when we hope that the current peak is in resolution. We appreciate your patience if you get a call asking to bump a visit to later. Children who are not due for vaccinations and have no chronic medical conditions will be the first ones we call to reschedule.
Well child exams will be scheduled no later than 2 pm for now. This is a pain for kids in school and working parents; we get it. However, we MUST avoid sharing illness as much as possible, and we MUST be able to see sick kids too. We know you would want your child to be seen in their medical home if they get sick. We appreciate your support.
We will emphasize telemedicine for acute visits and follow up care if appropriate to reduce the load on our staff.
If your child is asymptomatic but exposed to COVID, please follow the quarantine guidelines you are given. Testing is not required for most children, and if they’re doing well, testing is not required. If they become sick, or you need medical clearance, we will of course want to discuss the next best steps together.
Now what can you do as a family to reduce the load on our medical community? (You probably already know these, but it’s worth repeating):
Socially distance. Modify or delay parties, sporting events, concerts, etc. Minimize the size of social gatherings and gather with vaccinated friends/family.
Mask up. It REALLY does help. Kids should be wearing masks in school even if vaccinated, at least for now. Outside play is mask optional, but distance as much as possible. Do not ask us for mask waivers. We believe they are good for your child with rare exceptions.
Please be vaccinated if you can be. We are extremely confident in the safety and effectiveness of the COVID vaccination. There are minor risks, but we feel strongly that the benefit greatly outweighs any risk for most patients. We will continue to vaccinate kids 12+ and the general public as long as we have the supply & staff to do so, and hopefully younger later this year.
Be safe when you play! Wear helmets, consistently use car seats, supervise risky play because we literally have little to no room for badly injured kiddos.
Call us first before heading to the ER or urgent care. If we can take care of your problem, that will lighten the load for our limited resources in the Austin area. We’ll help you figure out the best place to go if needed. We are available 7 days a week for telemedicine visits and 6 days a week for in person visits.
An important word on in-person learning: We strongly support in-person learning for most children. The restrictions last year may have been needed because of what we didn’t know about COVID, but we know a lot more than we did this time last year. We also know that school provides the structure for regulation of sleep, socialization, exercise, encouragement from teachers and coaches, as well as access to many services. We believe that this can be done safely, and applaud the efforts of our school districts to make schools as safe as possible.
Caring for our families during this crazy time has been a huge privilege. A challenge, YES! But your words of encouragement have really helped keep us going. Thank you for all the creative ways you have tried to keep your kids mentally well and physically safe. We thank you in advance for your kindness to all of our staff as we try to take good care of your kiddos during this next phase.
Southwest Pediatric Physicians