CHEO opens second ICU amid ‘unprecedented’ crisis

CHEO has opened a second pediatric intensive care unit to address an overflow of critically ill babies and young children with respiratory illnesses.

The hospital is dealing with a never-before-seen influx of children with illnesses including RSV, COVID-19, flu and other viruses.

“Unprecedented feels like an overused word at the moment, but there’s no better term to describe the crisis facing our pediatric health-care system right now,” Dr. Lindy Samson, CHEO’s chief of staff, said in a news release.

CHEO had previously added beds to its existing PICU. The new unit makes five more beds available to children and youth. The space has been temporarily reassigned from CHEO’s surgical day unit.

The hospital is experiencing more than double its normal volume of younger patients, leading to longer emergency room wait times.

CHEO says it’s taking other measures to deal with the crisis, including redeploying clinicians with critical care skills to help in the PICU, reassigning other staff and postponing some surgeries and clinic appointments to free up staff.

It has also adopted peak viral season measures, which means only one parent or designated caregiver is allowed at a sick child’s bedside.

On Monday, Samson pleaded at Ottawa’s board of health meeting for the public to wear masks. On Wednesday she reiterated that plea.

“At this time, we need Ottawa to come together as a community and help reduce the spread of these viral illnesses in our community, so CHEO can get back to providing care for all children and youth who need it, in a timely manner. So please wear a mask in crowded indoor spaces, including schools,” she said.

  • Time to wear masks ‘once again,’ Ottawa Public Health urges

Hospital wait times at all-time high

CHEO’s move to open a second ICU comes as new data shows wait times in Ontario emergency rooms are higher than ever.

In Ottawa, the average wait to see a doctor in the ER can be nearly double the provincial average.

“This weekend we had 24 admitted in our ER we only had 22 beds and we still saw 240 patients coming through who were not admitted,” said Yvonne Wilson, vice-president of patient care and chief nurse executive at Queensway-Carleton Hospital. “So it creates a challenge when we’re faced with that.”

Hospital officials say people seeking urgent care should still come to the emergency room.

“Patients who present to the Emergency Department are triaged based on the severity of illness/injury; those with the most severe conditions will be seen as quickly as possible, and unfortunately, some patients may experience longer wait times,” Ottawa Hospital spokesperson Rebecca Abelson said.

“Health-care providers always work hard to ensure that those who need care will receive it. If you need emergency care, you should continue to come to the Emergency Department.”

At CHEO, the average wait to see a doctor is more than three and a half hours. The provincial average is two hours.

Here are the latest average wait times to first assessment by a doctor at Ottawa-area hospitals:

Ottawa Hospital General Campus: 3.7 hours

CHEO: 3.4 hours

Queensway Carleton Hospital: 2.8

Ottawa Hospital Civic campus: 2.7 hours

Montfort Hospital: 2.2 hours

Here are the wait times to be admitted to a hospital bed (provincial average 21.3 hours):

Queensway Carleton Hospital: 23.7 hours

Ottawa Hospital General campus: 22 hours

Ottawa Hospital Civic campus: 21.6 hours

CHEO: 16.1 hours

Montfort Hospital: 16 hours

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