Inside an Ottawa children’s hospital battling against rising RSV, COVID-19, flu cases


A surge in respiratory diseases in youngsters. Shortages in remedy for youths. Add the beginning of chilly and flu season, plus COVID-19, and it is a “potpourri of issues” that comes at a time when the health-care system has been combating staffing challenges, says the president of an Ottawa children’s hospital.

“The present scenario has so many components … which might be converging on a system, a children’s well being system that was too small already heading into the pandemic,” Alex Munter, CEO of CHEO, previously Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario, informed White Coat, Black Art host Dr. Brian Goldman. 

“It’s contributing to this historic never-before-seen  — in practically 50 years that CHEO has been open  —  quantity of demand.”

This demand is stretching an already overburdened system, says Munter. He’s pleading for the group to put on masks and get vaccinated for COVID and flu to assist scale back the unfold of sickness and the variety of sick youngsters.

“It may also help guarantee that CHEO is in a position to reply to the pressures that we see.” 

Munter spoke to Goldman concerning the challenges dealing with CHEO and different children’s hospitals throughout the nation. Here is a part of their dialog. 

How busy is it at CHEO proper now because it offers with RSV, COVID, and progressively, the flu?

So [on Sunday], 250 visits to our emergency division. Just put that in context. It’s an emergency division that was constructed for 150 youngsters. At midnight, we had 10 youngsters within the emergency division that wanted a mattress, however there was no mattress for them. 

New information reveals extent of children’s hospital ER surge

Children’s hospitals in elements of Canada are nonetheless dealing with an unprecedented surge in ER visits and intakes, attributable to an enormous spike in respiratory sickness amongst youngsters. In Ontario, youngsters 5 to 17 are going to ERs with respiratory complaints at greater than triple the seasonal common.

Our occupancy in our inpatient drugs service is 183 per cent and our occupancy in intensive care is 186 per cent. And so we’re opening a second ICU … within the surgical day unit and reallocating employees to have the ability to do this.

When you are at 183 per cent occupancy, then you definately’re admitting youngsters that might usually be on the pediatric drugs ward to anyplace the place there’s a mattress. And when there is not a mattress, sadly, then households — dad or mum and sick youngster — have to attend within the emergency division till there’s a mattress.

It’s only a heartbreaking scenario for everybody.

You talked about that you just’re opening up a second ICU. How do you employees that?

We cannot rent quick sufficient, and there aren’t sufficient folks to rent. And so we do must reallocate physicians and nurses and different employees from outpatient specialist clinics, from surgical procedure, from different elements of the group … to employees these further beds, to employees the emergency division. 

Staff shortages inflicting closures, lengthy wait occasions at ERs

Patients are feeling the affect of the rising pressure on Canada’s health-care system as employees shortages drive some hospitals and emergency departments to shut their doorways. Experts warn it is an issue that would get even worse with one other wave of COVID-19.

It’s simply terrible as a result of too many youngsters already wait too lengthy for deliberate surgical procedure or deliberate process. And now we’re having to cancel these. And so we’ve got not achieved any — I should not say any, there’s most likely been one or two — however we have achieved hardly any backbone, coronary heart or mind surgical procedure within the final month as a result of that requires an admission to ICU for restoration, and we simply haven’t any ICU beds … we’ve not achieved any so-called elective surgical procedure. Obviously, pressing and emergent cardiac and neurosurgery and surgical procedure nonetheless occurs, however I’m speaking about deliberate surgical procedure.

They’re not ready for unimportant surgical procedure, these mother and father and people youngsters, are they?

No. For instance… speaking to a mom a few weeks in the past, whose youngster has scoliosis, and the curvature of the backbone has gotten a lot worse as they waited for surgical procedure; and their surgical procedure was cancelled … a few days beforehand as a result of there simply was no mattress capability.

It’s simply arduous on everybody…. Nobody right here is proud of the scenario as it’s. It’s simply not OK. 

That’s the ethical misery that health-care suppliers are experiencing as a result of … a baby who wants surgical procedure or remedy or medical intervention … when they do not get it, it will possibly have an effect on their trajectory — can have an effect on the trajectory of their [lives].

We have a children’s well being system that’s too small for a rising youngster and youth inhabitants.– Alex Munter

As we pull out of this disaster scenario, I believe we’ve got to acknowledge that, you realize, the basis trigger is that we’ve got a children’s well being system that’s too small for a rising youngster and youth inhabitants. And the ethical of this story is that we have to right-size the kid well being system.

How do you do this? 

It’s about constructing techniques of care round youngsters’ wants and youngsters’ lives.

We must bolster the capability we’ve got, and we have to develop new fashions of care. So, for instance right here at CHEO, we have created a brand new service in our psychological well being and addictions program known as “One name, one click on.” It’s by means of our Kids Come First well being crew that brings collectively 24 psychological well being and addictions businesses. 

A man with dark hair and wearing a dark blue suit, light blue shirt and striped tie stands in front of leafy background.
Alex Munter is the president and CEO of CHEO in Ottawa. (Media House, CHEO)

We’ve arrange a few pressing care clinics … led by group pediatricians and household physicians, and that is been actually, actually necessary for us in with the ability to give households an various to the emergency division … But nearly all of those initiatives, definitely the pressing care clinics and the “One name, one click on,” it is all on non permanent cash. The further beds that we’ve got for the time being — all on non permanent cash. 

We do must make everlasting these investments in children’s well being, recognizing to begin with, it is the fitting factor to do.
And secondly, that the dividends that it pays are appreciable to the society as a complete, after all, but additionally to the health-care system afterward. When we put youngsters on the trail to lifelong well being, that implies that they won’t be utilizing as many health-care assets as they grow old.

As you’re employed your approach by means of this disaster, what worries you essentially the most?

What worries me essentially the most after all is the youngsters and ensuring that significantly youngsters with critical and ongoing well being points get the care that they want; or if it is delayed, that it is not delayed so lengthy that it adjustments the whole trajectory of their life.

That simply weighs so closely on all of us.

My different concern is for our personal people who find themselves doing this work … they’re doing what must be achieved, and so they’re working further shifts, and so they’re working across the clock, and so they’re considering of latest methods of doing issues. But that is exhausting. 

Produced by Colleen Ross and Jeff Goodes. Q&A edited for size and readability.


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