Overwhelmed Children’s Hospital cancelling surgeries

Children's Hospital in London. Photo from Google Street View.

London’s Children’s Hospital is cancelling surgeries as it continues to deal with a patient surge that has left it overcapacity.

The reduction in surgical activity comes as the hospital’s occupancy rate has soared to 115 per cent. That level of occupancy is higher than that seen during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, officials at the London Health Science Centre said on Tuesday.

“This is an extremely difficult decision and one that I wish we didn’t have to make,” said President of Children’s Hospital Nash Syed. “The decision to reduce surgical activity is necessary to ensure our teams are able to meet critical care and emergency needs.”

Daily visits to the hospital’s emergency department are also 80 per cent higher than normal with wait times averaging six to eight hours.

The patient surge stems from a spike in respiratory illnesses including COVID-19, the flu, and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) that has been overwhelming hospital’s across the province.

To help combat the increase in demand, the hospital has extended inpatient capacity by 117 per cent, increased critical care capacity by 150 per cent, and leveraged paediatric ambulatory clinic spaces to relieve pressure on the emergency department. A virtual urgent care clinic has also been established and some children over the age of 14 have been shifted to the adult intensive care unit in order to save capacity in the pediatric critical care units for younger patients.

According to the hospital these strategies are helping, but further action is required to sustain hospital resources.

“Reducing surgical activity will allow health care teams to prioritize urgent and time-sensitive surgeries while managing the growing number of patients admitted to critical care units and inpatient areas,” the hospital said.

Parents of children whose surgery or procedure has been cancelled will be contacted by hospital administrative teams.

“To the parents and family members of paediatric patients, I want to assure you that our health care teams will do everything they can to reschedule surgeries in a timely manner,” said Syed.

Community members are being asked to do their part to help reduce some of the strain on the health care system by staying up-to-date on vaccinations for COVID-19 and the flu, screening daily for respiratory symptoms, staying home when sick, and washing hands regularly. People are also advised to follow the Ontario chief medical officer of health’s advice to wear a mask while in public indoor settings.