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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.

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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