Ottawa’s children’s hospital is suspending the first-of-its-kind virtual emergency department services to shift resources back to in-person care.
CHEO said in an announcement Wednesday that the pause will last for at least 90 days.
“This suspension allows CHEO to reassign much-needed staff from virtual care to providing in-person support to kids and families who are coming to our emergency department,” the Eastern Ontario pediatric hospital said in a release.
CHEO said it has seen “extraordinary demand” for in-person urgent care since the summer months.
In October, the ER at CHEO cared for more than 7,100 kids and youth in-person, up 68 per cent year-over-year. That’s also higher than the typical month in “peak viral season,” stretching from December to April, the hospital said.
CHEO launched its virtual emergency department in May 2020 in the early weeks of the COVID-19 pandemic. It was believed to be the first offering of its kind in Canada.
At the time, CHEO’s chief executive Alex Munter said the hospital was seeing a significant decline in emergency room visits attributed to general unease around in-person care in the pandemic.
The hospital said it remains “committed to offering virtual care options” in the future, with expectations the remote ER visits will resume.