As viral infections and clinic wait times increase, Omaha parents seeking alternatives

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Published: Nov. 29, 2022 at 10:37 PM CST
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OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) - For weeks, viral infections in the metro have been steadily climbing, and hospitals, clinics, and urgent care facilities have been overrun with sick kids.

“We’ve seen a lot of hospitalizations we’ve seen quite a few emergency department visits and very busy outpatient clinics and urgent cares,” says pediatric infectious disease expert and Children’s Hospital and Medical Center hospitalist Dr. Russell McCulloh.

McCulloh says it’s not uncommon for there to be an uptick in sick patients this time of year, but it is uncommon to see patients with several viral infections at once.

That’s what’s been happening at Children’s Hospital for weeks now.

“Personally working both as an infectious disease doctor and a hospitalist, have seen quite a few kids who have been very ill from these viruses, often because they have more than one virus at the same time.”

And if you’re a parent, the thought of having a sick kid can be dreadful.

“It’s a lot of questioning and wondering is she OK? It’s a lot of checking for signs and symptoms that are troublesome or worrisome but also in the back of your mind there’s always like, ‘but what if I’m missing something? What if there is something really wrong that I just don’t know about?” says Mariah Barrett, mom of 19-month-old Olivia.

Last week, the surge in viral infections forced Children’s Hospital urgent care facilities to consolidate and created long wait times at other clinics, too.

“When your kid is sick, the last place you want to be is away from home, you don’t want to be sitting in uncomfortable chairs and 20 other stressed-out parents and their babies who don’t feel well,” Barrett says.

That’s why Barrett avoids the waiting rooms and lines.

“What better than to bring the clinic to the patient’s home rather than dragging your kid in when they’re sick and not feeling well and going into the clinic,” says Erin Thoman, a nurse practitioner and owner of Nebraska Home Pediatrics.

She started the business five years ago, after getting tired of taking her own children to clinics and needing to wait in unfamiliar and often uncomfortable waiting rooms and offices. Now, parents call her and she makes home visits and has the ability to test for things like RSV, COVID-19, and the flu, all of which are floating around the community in large numbers.

“In about the last two weeks, I’ve had a triple in the number of patient calls I get for sick kiddos,” she says. Lately, the virus she’s seeing the most is Influenza A.

According to the CDC weekly flu summary map, Nebraska is at one of the highest levels in the country.

Thoman’s business also does well visits, sick visits, and gives vaccinations.

As numbers of viral infections climb, doctors and nurses like Thoman and McCulloh say they’re preparing for even more, too.

“I think that the holidays are going to not slow that down if anything speed that up a little bit,” Dr. McCulloh says.

“We do anticipate that there continues to be increasing demand for sick visits,” Thoman adds.

If you’re unsure if your child needs to be taken to a clinic or urgent care, both Thoman and McCulloh suggest scheduling a virtual care visit or tele-health visit to avoid potentially waiting hours in a facility.

Next year, Thoman says she also plans to open a clinic that will offer day hours and nighttime hours. More information on Nebraska Home Pediatrics can be found on their Facebook page.