BOSTON (CBS) – When 14-month-old Liam isn’t feeling well, his mother Heidi Chang says she had to get creative when it comes to visiting his pediatrician.
“We have a lot of back and forth with her,” Chang said. “We do a lot of phone sessions or things like that or we just email the pediatrician. I think they’re so overwhelmed that they don’t really want us to come in if it’s not such a big deal.”
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“Now is a difficult time for us pediatricians. Our offices are being flooded,” says Dr. Scott Hadland, chief of Adolescent Medicine at Mass General Hospital. “It’s almost certainly because of COVID. If it’s not COVID itself that’s making kids sick, it’s the concern about having COVID and we’re here to help families navigate through it all.”
Pediatricians balance between seeing sick children, COVID testing, vaccinations and staff shortages.
“The demand for sick visits and the demand for children to come in and undergo COVID testing has skyrocketed,” explains Dr. Robyn Riseberg, the founder of Boston Community Pediatrics.
One big reason, kids are finally back in school.
“Now everyone is back together, and kids are getting sick and they need to be seen and because of COVID and because kids under 12 can’t be vaccinated, everybody needs to get tested,” said Dr. Riseberg.
And this is when the phones start ringing.
“Parents and children are placed in difficult positions where if they experience symptoms, they often require a formal COVID test to return to work or school,” added Dr. Hadland to it.
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Whether it’s COVID or the fear of having COVID, pediatricians say the only way to find out is to get tested.
“There’s so much need and people are back to work and back to school and trying to fit everything in and it’s so hard to do,” said Dr. Riseberg.
The Boston Community Pediatrics, which opened in the midst of the pandemic, still had to adapt some of their practices.
“We’ve rearranged our schedule so we do COVID testing every day from 4-5 outside our building and we put sick kids at the end of the day so we don’t confuse sick and healthy kids,” she said.
This, in addition to exam rooms with windows and linking telehealth appointments with tests.
“We know that access to your provider and your pediatrician is so important now because they are nervous and concerned about their child,” Riseberg added.
“I want to be very clear when a parent or child is concerned and wants to see a doctor, they absolutely need to see a doctor. This is what we are here for and although we are very busy, we are doing what we can,” said Dr. Hadland.
A total solution that is now twofold.
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“First, I would like to encourage parents to show us some mercy, we work very hard,” added Dr. Hadland to it. “My advice for the longer term is that parents and in fact all people aged 12 and older should be vaccinated.”