UCSF creates overflow accommodations for RSV, other respiratory infection cases

A surge in RSV cases and other winter viruses has prompted some Bay Area hospitals to set up overflow spaces to accommodate more patients.

UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospitals has created flex spaces at their locations in San Francisco and Oakland because their ICU and regular beds are full, according to Chief Medical Officer Dr. Joan Zoltanski. In Oakland, the hospital has made room for more patients in an annex building next to their ER. In San Francisco’s Mission Bay campus, the hospital has set up a tent outside the ER.

"What the flex spaces are for are to see lower acuity patients," Zoltanski said. "You see patients that may be coming in with a simple ear ache or an ankle sprain."

Zoltanski said RSV makes up about half of the seasonal viruses they’re treating right now, followed by the flu. It’s a similar story at Stanford Medicine Children’s Health where beds are full at Lucille Packard Children’s Hospital. Chief Medical Officer Dr. Dennis Lund said they have not had to set up a tent outside, but they have made room for more patients in their ER. Stanford Children’s Health is currently deferring and rescheduling some elective surgeries for children.

"A number of children end up self-canceling because they’re on the O.R. schedule and then they end up with a respiratory illness and we have to cancel because they’re sick," Lund said.

Sutter Health, Kaiser Permanente, and John Muir hospitals systems each said they are seeing a significant increase in patients with respiratory viruses like RSV, influenza, and rhinovirus. They urge people to stay up to date on vaccinations and well as practicing social distancing, masking, and hand washing. And with the holidays approaching, doctors are urging caution if you plan to gather with large groups of people.


"If your child is sick it’s important to just stay home," Zoltanski said. "RSV is an illness that affects small children, but it also affects old people. It can make older people seriously ill."

 While RSV comes around every year, the surge is happening earlier this year and the volume of patients is higher.