CHEO advises families to bring blankets and toys as emergency wait times grow

The children’s hospital said it is experiencing “heavy volumes” and noted that the most urgent and sickest cases are always seen first.

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As pressure in its emergency department reaches record levels, CHEO advises parents to bring snacks, blankets and toys to ease the long wait.

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In a social media announcement Tuesday, the children’s hospital said it is experiencing “heavy volumes” and noted that the most serious and urgent cases are always seen first.

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“Come prepared with snacks, blankets, toys, etc. so that your wait is as comfortable as possible. CHEO is always here to provide urgent care when you need it.”

In fact, the hospital’s emergency department is on track to treat more young patients this month than in any previous September in its history.

On Monday he had 264 visits to the ER, raising the daily average for September to 223 visits. Last September, which also saw a record number of visits, the daily average in the emergency department was 222, spokesman Patrick Moore said.

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The hospital is in talks with the province to improve the situation in its emergency department, Moore said. Among the suggestions are the expansion of programs like the Kids Come First care clinic at CHEO and the East Ottawa Kids COVID Care Clinic.

The hospital’s record ER volume reflects the fact that Ottawa is experiencing an early and relatively severe flu and viral season. That includes COVID-19, which is beginning to resurface in Ottawa, and other viral illnesses. One such disease, RSV, is the leading cause of hospitalization for young children.

In recent years, pandemic measures such as mask wearing and social distancing have severely reduced or eliminated many common viruses, as well as influenza, which can particularly affect young children.

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This year, with virtually all pandemic mandates lifted, COVID-19 and other viruses are spreading through the community. Some children will never have been exposed to them. Many people also expect a severe flu season, based on experience in the southern hemisphere during winter.

There are other reasons for the added pressures on pediatric hospitals like CHEO right now, some of them similar to those experienced by adult hospitals.

Those include a shortage of family doctors and delayed treatments and appointments during the pandemic.

In recent months, some hospitals in Ottawa, eastern Ontario and across the province have temporarily closed their emergency departments due to staffing shortages. COVID infections of healthcare workers contributing to critical staffing shortages are growing in Ottawa, according to data compiled by Ottawa Public Health.

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Bill 7, which has been heavily criticized, has been praised by adult hospital CEOs for taking some of the pressure off their emergency departments. The bill allows hospitals to transfer patients who no longer need acute care and who are awaiting long-term care to be transferred to a long-term care home that they have not approved. Patients who refuse to move will be billed $400 per day.

Critics say the bill violates the rights of the elderly and disabled. Some hospital officials say it will help ease emergency department crowding by opening hospital beds to reduce emergency wait times.

Wait times in the CHEO emergency department change frequently and vary significantly throughout the day.

At 3 pm, the longest wait time to see a doctor was three hours and 47 minutes, with 57 patients waiting. At around 8 a.m. Tuesday, according to a tweet from Ottawa physician Dr. Yoni Freedhoff, the longest wait in the CHEO ER was 11 hours and 17 minutes.

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