Since 1993, the neonatal pediatric transport team at Children’s Hospital at London Health Science Centre (LHSC) has been providing critical care in crucial moments for young patients who are too unstable to stay at the regional hospitals where they are and need to be transported.
But now, the team is looking to expand to a third shift following a major rise in service calls.
Leeann Trowbridge, a respiratory therapist at LHSC and a member of the transport team, says that since January, they’ve received roughly 900 service calls.
“We’re only one team, but there would be up to six to eight calls a day,” she said.
The team of 20 nurses and respiratory therapists travel by air and land to stabilize kids, as young as preterm infants up to 22 weeks, and bring them back to the Children’s Hospital.
The initial calls come through CritiCall, which the team described as an “emergency consultation and referral service for physicians,” from any hospital in their catchment area that needs stabilizing support.
From there, the callers work with a physician to manage emergent needs while the transport team determines what equipment is needed in order to safely treat and bring the patient to Children’s Hospital.
Director Dr. Henry Roukema praised the local transport team, calling their knowledge of transport medicine “superb.”
“It can’t really be understated how agile they really need to be in order to be able to capture all those types of situations,” he told Global News.
The team is one of only four in the province and covers the largest geographic transport area, stretching throughout southwestern Ontario and travelling from the Canada/U.S. border to as far as Fort Frances and Red Lake.
This is also the same team that was called in to save the life of a young toddler who fell into a backyard pool at a Petrolia, Ont., daycare.
Trowbridge said respiratory season also marks a particularly busy time, as the team received almost double the call volume per day during this time last year.
“We had 107 transport requests for the one-quarter last year, and that’s the actual amount of transports that we went on (and) doesn’t account for all the other calls,” she said.
The team also works with EMS partners, such as ORNGE, to transport the patient by ground, fixed-wing aircraft, or even helicopter in some cases.
While physicians will sometimes attend these calls along with the team, it’s more often just two transport members: a nurse and a respiratory therapist.
“We’ve sort of just evolved into a more dedicated team,” said Laura Regier, a registered nurse with the team at Children’s Hospital. “It’s still a respiratory therapist and a registered nurse going out making those same calls, but we’re not being pulled from an assignment at the bedside. We’re sitting in hospital, waiting, essentially, for the call and for the ask to be made for us to go out.”
Regier also stressed the importance of “in-moment education,” citing available opportunities the transport team is able to have with regional hospitals on education and knowledge that could be helpful for future patients.
“It’s being involved and explaining to them maybe how their equipment could be used differently, or how they could use that piece of equipment they have on a baby that’s so small that they typically wouldn’t care for but might show up in their emergency department,” she said.
The transport team at Children’s Hospital was also the first to transport children as old as 17.
“For 30 years, we’ve been doing it all,” Regier said. “We’ve been doing the baby and the teenage child, and we take pride in that.”
Trowbridge added that while it can sometimes take hours to get to the designated location, they “just get the warmest welcome” when they arrive.
“They’re so thankful we can help and so are we,” she said.