Ottawa’s CHEO opens first virtual pediatric emergency room in Canada amid coronavirus pandemic

The Children's Hospital of Eastern Ontario is opening Canada's first virtual emergency department as part of its response to the coronavirus pandemic. The Canadian Press Images/Francis Vachon

As wary parents avoid taking their kids to the emergency room during the novel coronavirus pandemic, Ottawa’s local children’s hospital is becoming the first in Canada to offer a virtual option for non-life-threatening concerns.

With the novel coronavirus dominating headlines and health-care resources around the world, the number of parents taking their children to the emergency department at the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario (CHEO) has plummeted.

“In the past 60 days we’ve seen a significant decline in the number of kids and teens coming to our emergency department, and those who are coming are too often presenting with worse symptoms than we would normally see,” said Alex Munter, CHEO’s president and CEO, as part of a statement Monday announcing the pediatric hospital’s new virtual option.

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Starting Monday, CHEO will look to deliver some elements of its emergency care through 24 scheduled appointments between 9 a.m. and 9 p.m.

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Parents can go to to fill out a quick self-triage form and then, if necessary, request one of the appointment slots.

CHEO expects to handle most inquiries virtually, but some families might be asked to come into the hospital for additional care if the situation calls for it.

The local children’s hospital noted in a release that the emergency room is safe for all visits, should in-person care be needed.

CHEO also clarified that the virtual emergency room is not meant to replace primary care providers in the community if those resources are still available.

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