RSV cases on the rise stretch children’s hospitals


Coming down from the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic, kids’s hospitals throughout Canada are struggling to deal with a brand new surge of younger sufferers with viral infections in what pediatric health-care staff are calling their model of 2020.

Pediatric health-care professionals warn most children’s hospitals are working at or over 100 per cent occupancy, that emergency room wait instances might be as much as 24 hours and that some non-emergency surgical procedures are already being delayed.

One germ specifically, respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), has particularly stretched hospitals’ limits. RSV is a standard childhood respiratory an infection that usually leads to cold-like signs which clear up after every week or two, in response to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

However, the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) warns extreme cases of RSV might result in hospitalization. RSV also can trigger secondary bacterial infections, corresponding to pneumonia. There isn’t any vaccine for RSV nor any treatment that clears up an an infection, so care is often centred on treating signs and secondary infections.

While RSV infections usually peak in December and January, PHAC’s Oct. 29 Respiratory Virus Report warns the variety of each RSV and Influenza A cases is “above expected levels for this time of year.” So far, the company has detected 1,045 cases of RSV, with a seven per cent positivity fee.

Some health-care professionals attribute the spike in RSV infections to the proven fact that bodily distancing and public well being restrictions throughout the pandemic saved kids from being contaminated with the virus for 2 years, so their immune techniques have much less expertise preventing it now that these restrictions have lifted.

Dr. Robert Barnes, affiliate director {of professional} providers at the Montreal Children’s Hospital, stated that whereas the viral surge is affecting all pediatric age teams, the youngest kids appear to be bearing the brunt of it.

“We have an enormous quantity of our very younger kids in the group who didn’t get a lot of a flip with these viruses final winter and even the winter earlier than that,” Barnes advised on Wednesday. “So the virus is spreading way more, and far quicker amongst our younger folks.”

Meanwhile, hospitals throughout Canada have already surpassed their emergency room and in-patient capability ranges and are battling lengthy wait instances.

When her asthmatic three-year-old James Pinter fell unwell on Oct. 17 with a fever, cough, congestion and lethargy, Calgary mom Michelle Maguire determined he wanted to see a physician. Her first selection, Alberta Children’s Hospital, listed a wait time of greater than seven hours on-line, so she went along with her second selection, Rockyview General Hospital.

“All hospital wait instances are flooded proper now,” she advised in a telephone interview on Wednesday. “But the physician we noticed at the hospital did tell us that mainly each little one they’re seeing is presenting with RSV signs.”

James was recognized with RSV and launched that day to get well at residence. Maguire stated he is feeling significantly better, however that it was the most extreme sickness her eldest little one has had.


Emily Gruenwold, president and CEO of Children’s Healthcare Canada, stated conversations like the one Maguire had with the physician at Rockyview General Hospital are occurring in hospitals all through Canada proper now.

“Across the nation, virtually with out exception, our children’s hospitals are all operating at one hundred pc occupancy or extra,” Gruenwold advised in a telephone interview on Thursday.

Part of what is driving excessive occupancy charges, she stated, is the ongoing scarcity of children’s Advil and Tylenol all through the nation.

“Parents are seeing their little ones not feeling the greatest, possibly battling excessive fever, physique aches and complications and so they’re attempting to manage these signs at residence,” Gruenwold stated.

When they cannot discover what they should deal with these signs on pharmacy cabinets, she stated they usually flip to hospital emergency departments.

Gruenwold stated CHU Sainte-Justine, in Montreal, was operating at 300 per cent occupancy this week and that, as of Thursday morning, the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario’s (CHEO) pediatric ICU was operating at 200 per cent.

HSC Children’s, in Winnipeg, Manitoba, reported on Oct. 27 that its emergency division noticed a mean of 139.5 sufferers per day in September, a rise of just about 11 per cent year-over-year.

In an interview with CTV News Channel on Wednesday, Bruce Squires, president of McMaster Children’s Hospital, stated the hospital’s in-patient occupancy was approaching 135 per cent.

“As our groups work to answer that degree of demand, we have needed to open a big variety of further beds on a every day foundation,” he stated.

Squires attributed the state of affairs at his hospital to the fruits of a number of elements, together with the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and a “vital spike” of viral infections, together with RSV and influenza. Pandemic-related delays for specialised pediatric therapies, he stated, have additionally led to an inflow of younger sufferers who’re sicker than they need to be.

“Unfortunately it appears to be coming collectively all at the similar time and it is resulted in, for us at McMaster Children’s, unprecedented numbers of children presenting to our emergency division,” he stated, in addition to “unprecedented numbers who require both an inpatient ward admission or, in some cases, an admission to our vital care models.”

Staff are going through an analogous state of affairs at Montreal Children’s Hospital, the place Barnes works. The hospital noticed an emergency room occupancy fee of 193 per cent Tuesday evening, up from a mean occupancy fee of 113 % round the similar time in 2019. The hospital’s ICU is at roughly 115 per cent occupancy whereas the medical unit is working at about 106 per cent.

According to employees at the hospital, emergency room wait instances for the hospital’s least vital guests are between 18 and 24 hours.

Diane Piques took her eight-year-old daughter, Chloe Santangeli, to the hospital on Oct. 8. Chloe, who has bronchial asthma, appeared to have a viral an infection and was struggling to breathe. She was recognized with RSV and pneumonia and admitted in a single day so she may obtain IV antibiotics and supplemental oxygen. Chloe is slowly recovering, however Piques is haunted by the expertise, and by what number of different kids on her daughter’s flooring of the hospital gave the impression to be battling the similar sickness.

“The complete flooring she was on had both pneumonia or had the virus,” she advised in a telephone interview on Wednesday. “The physician that noticed her stated she’s by no means seen a rise like this, ever.”

Barnes stated the hospital does not reserve flooring for particular diseases, however that he is not stunned it appeared that technique to Piques.

“There will not be a devoted RSV or pneumonia flooring,” he stated. “However, we’re so overwhelmed that it will not shock me if nearly each affected person on a selected flooring might need that downside.”

The hospital has added extra beds for admissions than it will usually want for this time of 12 months, and Barnes stated these admissions have begun to displace sources for different areas, like surgical procedure.

“It has had an influence on our capability to hold out our surgical schedule for these kids who want an operation, or who want a hospital mattress or ICU mattress folowing a surgical procedure,” Barnes stated.

As a end result, some sufferers who’ve waited weeks or months for surgical procedure may have to attend slightly longer. Fortunately, Barnes stated, the hospital has not needed to postpone emergency operations or surgical procedures associated to most cancers.

To handle the inflow of admissions, Cindy McCartney, affiliate director of nursing, stated the hospital has leaned closely on employees to work voluntary time beyond regulation. She in contrast the expertise of children’s hospitals proper now to the experiences of common hospitals all through the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I believe everyone seems to be drained,” she advised on Wednesday. “I believe that the grownup health-care system had a extremely troublesome time throughout COVID, and that is like our COVID, and the demand on our employees may be very excessive.”

Gruenwold made the similar comparability.

“It looks like that is our 2020 moment,” she stated. “In 2020, when the pandemic emerged, we noticed unacceptable ranges of care and outcomes for our seniors populations. Now, we’re seeing the similar for our youngsters.”


Gruenwold believes it falls to the provincial and federal governments to provide Canada’s hospitals and health-care system the sources they have to be extra resilient and higher ready to face public well being crises.

However, she, Squires, Barnes and McCartney all agreed that for now, there are steps dad and mom can take to ensure they’re utilizing the applicable health-care providers with a purpose to protect hospital capability for kids who want it most.

“It is useful to evaluate your choices when you have got some issues about your kid’s well being,” Squires stated. “Certainly, in an emergency state of affairs, ensure you do name 911 or proceed on to an emergency division.”

However, in cases the place an sickness does not appear as vital, Squires stated dad and mom can generally reap the benefits of their main care supplier’s emergency after-hours clinic, if that clinic presents pediatric therapy.

For households who haven’t got a main care supplier, or whose main care clinics are closed, provinces and hospitals provide on-line and phone triage and session providers. For instance, folks in Quebec can name 811 to explain their signs, obtain recommendation about the most applicable care choices and e book appointments over the telephone. Ontario presents an analogous service in Telehealth.

Some children’s hospitals, corresponding to CHEO and McMaster Children’s Hospital, provide a phone triage service that enables dad and mom to talk with a nurse practitioner or doctor in the emergency division who may help decide a toddler’s care wants earlier than a household has left their residence.

Finally, Gruenwold inspired dad and mom to ensure they and their kids are up-to-date on all their routine immunizations and COVID-19 vaccines, to assist cut back total pressure on the health-care system.

“Even earlier than they get sick, we encourage dad and mom to get their youngsters caught up on routine immunizations, and ensure they have their flu vaccine and their COVID boosters to set them up for fulfillment,” she stated.

With recordsdata from producer Jennifer Ferreira, author, producer Olivia Bowden, CTV National News correspondent Heather Wright and author Daniel Otis. 


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here