Pediatric ER departments overwhelmed
Quebec pediatric facilities are facing a crisis and are thus struggling to provide care to children in a timely, effective fashion. This is a a result of many factors, including the more frequent contacts between children, particularly with the start of the school year and the return of children to daycare after the summer, and the increased circulation of viruses such as the respiratory syncytial virus (RSV). In addition, the hospital network is facing a staff shortage, which has been exacerbated by the pandemic.
The emergency of the Montreal Children’s Hospital is currently experiencing a peak in visits. In September 2021, between 250 and 300 patients were seen there each day, which is twice as many as in September 2019, before the pandemic. This traffic is even greater than during the winter months, when 215 to 240 patients are typically seen daily.
In order to deal with this situation, a new service was launched on Sept. 6 to help families get appointments for their sick children. Parents are encouraged to first consult their family physician or visit their Family Medicine Group. If they can’t get an appointment in a timely fashion, parents can now also make an appointment at a designated pediatric clinic.
“We welcome the creation of designated pediatric clinics to care for children who need to be seen quickly by a physician, but who do not need to rush to the emergency room, which is designed and equipped to save young people in critical condition,” said Dr. Robert Barnes, Associate Director of Professional Services at the Montreal Children’s Hospital.
This service, which complements and supports the front-line network, is intended for patients up to the age of 16 (excluding babies under three months of age who require a quick consultation with a physician or in the emergency) who:
- May or may not have symptoms associated with COVID-19;
- Are not registered with a family physician or primary care nurse practitioner (PCNP);
- Are registered but unable to be seen by their family physician or PCNP in a timely manner;
If the situation requires it, parents can also go to hospitals in their area that offer pediatric emergency services. Most of them have beds for this specific clientele. It is important to reserve tertiary level care, such as that offered at the Montreal Children’s Hospital, for patients in critical condition.
The collaboration of parents is essential in order to limit the risks of spreading viruses in the school environment. If a child has symptoms similar to COVID-19, it is important to keep the child home for a 24-hour period, conduct a self-assessment of symptoms and follow recommendations, including getting tested. Keeping symptomatic children at home will help limit the spread of other respiratory viruses in the school setting, thereby relieving congestion in the pediatric emergency room.