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B.C. saw major drop in pediatric ER visits during COVID-19 pandemic, says UBC study

The emergency department entrance to St. Paul's Hospital is shown in downtown Vancouver, B.C. Thursday, March 19, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward

A new study out of the University of British Columbia found a major drop in the number of children who visited emergency rooms in B.C. during the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Looking at emergency room visits at 18 Metro Vancouver hospitals from March 17 to April 30, UBC researchers saw a 70-per-cent decline in the number of pediatric visits compared to the same time last year.

The study also found a 57-per-cent reduction in visits to the emergency department at BC Children’s Hospital at the peak of the pandemic.

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At the time, the province was under Phase 1 of its reopening plan and many non-essential services were shut down.

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The study suggests many families may have avoided visiting the hospital for minor illnesses.

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Visits for symptoms related to fever and gastrointestinal issues saw a 70-per cent decline, followed by orthopaedic complaints at 69 per cent, and respiratory symptoms at 56 per cent.

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The study said that while the overall number of admissions was lower, there was a significant increase in the admission rate, which indicates that children with less serious symptoms or injuries were less likely to go to emergency.

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Similar trends have been noted in Italy, England, and Spain, the research said.

The study also suggested that since many children’s activities such as sports were cancelled, a decline in sports-related injuries may have also contributed to a drop in emergency room visits.

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