High viral activity creating ‘ED gridlock,’ long waits at Hamilton’s McMaster Children’s Hospital

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COVID + flu outlook | Sleep deprivation risks
COVID + flu outlook | Sleep deprivation risks – Nov 22, 2023

Hamilton’s pediatric hospital is once again feeling the strain of cold and flu season with increased admissions attributed to “high viral activity” up some 15 per cent week over week.

McMaster Children’s Hospital (MCH) emergency physician Dr. April Kam says the recent surge at her department brought in several children she considered “pretty sick” creating a reciprocal effect on wait times, which have become longer.

She says on Thursday a “code:  ED gridlock” was called twice, resulting in full inpatient beds leaving no room for patients in the emergency department to be moved to a unit.

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“So we’ve had many days this week where gridlock was called,” Kam revealed. “Yesterday there were about 34 children admitted with influenza, RSV or COVID.  I think there were quite a few in the pediatric intensive care unit.”

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As of Friday last week, the hospital reported 23 patients with similar diagnoses. Of the patients admitted this week, 17 have RSV.

“I think right now it seems like RSV is at its peak and so we’re seeing a lot of more children with cough, fever and trouble breathing,” Kam said. “Just more kids working to breathe as a result. Certainly, a timely reminder for families to get themselves and their children Flu and COVID vaccines.”

Kam says high patient numbers coupled with staff working at maximum capacity and a slow discharge of patients has compounded the problem.

“We were already dealing with short staff even prior, so we are definitely all working extra hard to take care of the children as they’re presenting,” Kam indicated.

Last year, the hospital reported a 20 per cent increase in emergency department volume around September, which produced case numbers higher and earlier than in previous years. Kam says MCH is preparing for flu season to carry “well into spring.”

“There’s often a little bit of a surge from about Boxing Day onwards and we see the same when kids are back to school in January in the thick of winter,” she said.

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Hamilton General redirecting non-regional critical patients

Hamilton Health Sciences says with its weekly capacity up around 100 per cent at the General Hospital, some non-local critical care patients are being redirected away to ensure room remains available for those needing specialized care, like cardiac, stroke, burns, and trauma.

The facility is also deferring some scheduled care to ease pressures.

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