The thought of tending to a child so sick they require professional medical attention is both heartbreaking and panic inducing. Yet that reality has become even more horrifying as hospitals struggle to keep up with an unprecedented demand for pediatric medical care in the past few months.

Understaffed hospitals have forced parents to endure agonizing wait times with their sick children. Such is the reality for thousands of hospitals across the country. At Corewell Health Helen Devos Children’s Hospital in Michigan, medical professionals are grappling with the long-term consequences of the healthcare shortage on a day-to-day basis.

The emergency room at Devos Children’s typically receives 140 children each day, but as of late, they have been inundated with over 250 on any given day. Caregivers have reported increased rates of RSV and the flu, but have been wholly unprepared to handle the surge of cases from industry-wide changes implemented during the pandemic.

Pediatric facilities have been ravaged in the aftermath of COVID-19. Beyond a mass exodus of individuals from the medical workforce leading to widespread strain on nurses and doctors handling massive influxes in patients, U.S. hospitals have been cutting back on pediatric hospital beds. As the industry grapples with the economic implications of reduced patient capacity, hospitals have chosen to prioritize adult patients—mainly because it is more profitable. Out of Michigan’s 130 acute care hospitals, only 10 have pediatric ICUs. Reduced pediatric facilities have particularly affected rural areas, with parents regularly having to travel longer distances to get care for their sickly child.

In its current state, the healthcare sector cannot support the children that need immediate attention—new, innovative ideas to reinvigorate the workforce must be adopted promptly. Innocent children should never pay the price for a healthcare sector fundamentally devoid of the resources necessary to sustain a nation in crisis.

Read more about the painstaking, personal experiences of parents struggling to receive adept care for their sick children here, from Kaiser Health News.