Parents, doctor worried by emergency wait times at B.C. Children’s Hospital | CBC News


B.C. Children’s Hospital says respiratory illnesses are driving a spike in visits to the emergency department this fall.

In a statement, the hospital’s chief operating officer said Children’s is logging 142 to 150 visits per day, up 20 per cent from this time last year. Before April 2021, Sarah Bell said the hospital saw 135 visits per day.

The trend is in part driven by an increase in respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) cases, she said, which was foreseen based on trends elsewhere in Canada and globally.

“The rate we are seeing remains relatively low but we are proactively prepared to respond to a respiratory surge and have set up an Emergency Operations Centre (EOC) at our hospital,” Bell said in her email.

B.C. Children’s Hospital says it sees 93,000 young patients every year. (Justine Boulin/CBC)

“Activating an EOC is a frequently used practice to proactively manage patient access and flow at virtually all acute-care facilities.

“In our ED, we have been seeing mainly viral illnesses, gastroenteritis, fevers, nausea and vomiting and upper respiratory tract infections.”

Bell said the uptick comes at a time when health-care staffing remains a problem at Children’s and across B.C.’s entire medical system.

“We are continuing to support our clinical staff in the ED to help alleviate the pressures that they continue to face in providing 24/7 emergency care to children and youth.”

Children’s says ED visits are up 20 per cent compared to this time last year. (Justine Boulin/CBC)

Doctor, parents concerned

At least one family doctor is concerned about what the busy emergency department could mean for patients.

“If this is what it looks like now and we haven’t hit what is traditionally the peak of respiratory virus season, what is going to happen in November, December, January?” Dr. Anna Wolak asked.

“And will the hospital system and the health-care system, frankly, be able to sustain that?”

Wolak says staff are also impacted by the situation.

Family doctor Dr. Anna Wolak says it’s concerning that hospitals are feeling the strain now before the usual height of respiratory illnesses in the fall and winter months. (Murray Titus/CBC)

“It’s scary,” she said. “There’s nothing more [of a] helpless feeling than knowing there are sick people outside in the waiting room that you cannot get to because you have other patients.”

A family that experienced a long wait at Children’s in June described it as a frustrating, exhausting experience.

Kenton and Cayleen Klassen took their five-month-old daughter to Children’s when an 811 call ended with a recommendation for an emergency department visit after the baby girl banged her head.

They spent over 11 hours at Children’s before a doctor saw them.

They say they’re grateful for the care their daughter received but something needs to be done about waits.

“Something has to happen at a structural level, quickly,” Kenton said.

Watch for signs of illness, hospital says

On Sunday, wait times at Children’s were estimated at more than eight hours.

In an emailed statement,  B.C. Children’s chief medical officer Dr. Jana Davidson said wait times can fluctuate considerably at any hospital.

“BC Children’s is committed to ensuring that every child gets the care they need and the most urgent patients are attended to first,” Davidson said. “Our triage system, which manages patients based on illness severity, is different than the typical ‘lineup’ some families might expect. The most ill patients are seen as a priority.”

The hospital says parents should look for signs of respiratory illness in kids and take kids to the emergency if they have breathing problems, make grunting sounds, breathe “really hard” or turn pale or blue.

It’s also reminding parents to get kids up to date on vaccines, including COVID-19 and flu shots, to stay home when sick, avoid people at high risk of serious illness when sick and “practise respiratory etiquette.”

“Wear a mask in indoor public spaces, cough and sneeze in your elbow. Clean your hands regularly and avoid touching your face, especially your eyes, mouth and nose.”

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