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Syracuse, N.Y. – Golisano Children’s Hospital has so many patients seriously ill with respiratory syncytial virus, or RSV, it has run out of beds and is sending some kids to pediatric hospitals out of town.

Golisano, which is part of Upstate University Hospital, had 35 RSV patients Friday occupying about half of its 71 beds. Another two RSV patients awaiting beds were being temporarily cared for in the pediatric emergency room.

The children’s emergency department remains open, officials said. Upstate also is expanding the hours of its pediatric urgent care center, known as Golisano After Hours, at its Community Hospital campus on Onondaga Hill.

The surge of RSV has many children’s hospitals nationwide filled to the rafters.

“People across the country are saying, ‘I’ve never seen anything like this,’” said Dr. Gregory Conners, Upstate’s pediatrics chief.

Dr. Gregory P. Conners

Dr. Gregory P. Conners, pediatrics chair at Upstate Medical University and executive director of the Golisano Children’s Hospital.

RSV is a common virus that usually causes mild, cold-like symptoms. Most people recover in a week or two.

But RSV can sometimes be serious and even fatal in infants, especially those under 6 months, and in older adults.

RSV started much earlier than usual this year and is infecting more kids. Experts say that’s because many children were not previously exposed to the virus and did not build up any immunity to it.

That’s because many children did not go to school or day care centers earlier in the Covid pandemic when many people were wearing masks and social distancing to prevent the transmission of Covid-19. Those same precautions also stopped the spread of RSV.

Since Sept. 1, Golisano has turned away about 85 patients, most of them youngsters in emergency rooms at smaller regional hospitals that do not have pediatric units, Conners said.

Those kids are being transferred to pediatric hospitals in Albany, Rochester or Buffalo. If those hospitals are full, some children are being sent even farther away, he said.

“It’s a very difficult situation,” Conners said. “We want to take care of all the kids in the region, or at least help them find care. Sometimes it means going a little farther afield.”

In some cases Upstate has provided advice and coaching by phone to medical personnel in regional hospitals with pediatric RSV cases so they can treat those kids and get them home without sending them of town.

Conners said he’s hoping RSV is nearing its peak.

Children with RSV having trouble breathing may receive oxygen and intravenous fluids in the hospital.

In addition to RSV, some kids coming to Golisano also have another virus like Covid or influenza. They tend to be the sickest, Conners said.

As RSV has increased Upstate has worked to beef up its pediatric capacity. Some nurses and respiratory therapists from other parts of the hospital have been reassigned to Golisano, Conners said.

Some older teens who would ordinarily be cared for by pediatricians are being treated by doctors who care for adults, he said.

“We’ve created some overflow areas so that we can do our best to take care of as many children as we can,” Conners said.

Golisano Children's Hospital

Golisano Children’s Hospital, Syracuse, NY. Dick Blume/The Post Standard

Starting Monday the pediatric urgent care center at Community will be open 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 4 p.m. to 10 p.m. Friday and noon to 8 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.

That center is staffed with emergency medicine and pediatric specialists. It is open to young people up to age 21.

The center provides urgent care for minor injuries or illnesses when a child’s pediatrician or family practice provider is unavailable.

Appointments are not required. Free parking is available and most insurance plans are accepted.

Parents should call 911 if their child is experiencing a life-threatening emergency, Upstate said.

People with questions about RSV and other health issues can get answers by calling a registered nurse at Upstate Connect, 800-464-8668.

James T. Mulder covers health. Have a news tip? Contact him at (315) 470-2245 or

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