McMaster Children’s Hospital joins plea for action plan amid long surgical waitlist for youth

A McMaster Children's hospital executive is joining a group pushing Ontario to bump funding for youth surgeries amid a growing backlog. Global News

The president of McMaster Children’s Hospital (MCH) has made a plea to the next Ontario government to invest a $1 billion over four years to develop a children’s health strategy – addressing surgical wait times and bolstering overall capacity in hospitals.

Bruce Squires revealed around 1,300 youths are currently on the waitlist in Hamilton for procedures at the city’s health facilities and suggests the delays are having “devastating impacts” on their physical and mental well-being.

“This is because kids have taken the brunt of the pandemic. Really, we’ve asked too much of our children and youth,” Squires said.

“They’ve had their vital health care delayed … faced significant learning losses, and as a result are experiencing devastating impacts on their development, their physical, their social, their mental health and well-being.”

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McMaster is part of a coalition of seven Ontario children’s hospitals asking the province to fund an action plan and a health strategy summit.

The executive said recent Hamilton network numbers are showing significant increases in eating disorders and incidents of self-harm among children since the start of the pandemic.

Children and youth waiting longer than clinically recommended time periods for procedures has grown by 230 per cent at MCH which puts some at risk of being “aged” out of rehabilitation services as time passes.

Public Health Ontario estimates that 62 per cent of youth have waited beyond the clinically recommended wait time.

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“And that has gone up 38 per cent over the course of the pandemic here at McMaster Children’s,” said Squires.

COVID has also been a factor in delays recently with the facility having to manage close to 500 youth making a visit with the affliction between January and February.

Last week, HHS said it reduced its overall scheduled surgical activity back to 70 per cent of pre-pandemic volumes and is using the Satellite Health Facility on King Street and St. Peter’s Hospital to reduce “capacity pressures” at its major hospitals.

HHS executive vice president and chief operating officer Sharon Pierson revealed the network is collaborating with regional partners now to balance demands across its hospitals, using agency staffing resources, and opportunities provided by their Clinical Extern program to hire third- and fourth-year students.

In a late April town hall, she said the current rollback of non-urgent procedures is likely to last into May with the possibility of ramping back up to 80 per cent of capacity sometime during the next 30 days.

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Surgical activity in Ontario’s hospitals has fluctuated over the past two years, negatively affected by every spike created by a new wave of COVID infection.

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Last week, Public Health Ontario estimated the waitlist for surgeries had grown to between 225,000 to 250,000 patients.

Hamilton reporting more COVID-related hospitalizations, outbreaks week over week

Epidemiologist Dr. Dominick Mertz told HHS staff on Thursday local COVID data is suggesting the city is now “peaking” in terms of hospitalizations and slightly lagging behind the rest of the province in that indicator as of this week.

Ontario is reporting 1,662 people in hospital with COVID on Friday, with 210 in intensive care.

This is down by 14 for hospitalizations but an increase of five for ICUs since the previous day. Last Friday, there were 1,679 hospitalizations with 209 in ICU.

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As of Friday, Hamilton’s hospital networks had 127 COVID patients combined – a drop of 19 week over week and 80 month over month.

“The models would suggest that we might increase a little bit more this week, it hasn’t happened yet, but if so it wouldn’t be an awful lot,” Mertz said.

“After that, we expect the number of newly admitted patients with COVID … will start to decline over the weeks to come going into June and July.”

Hamilton’s most recent wastewater data – tracking viral activity through local treatment plants – continued to show a decline in COVID signal week over week between April 20 and April 27.

Hamilton Public Health

Hamilton Public Health COVID-19 Wastewater monitoring table as of April 27, 2022.

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Based on about 230 PCR tests completed in the past week, the city’s percent positivity rate has decreased slightly to 14.1 per cent compared to the 14.2 per cent recorded on April 29.

As of May 6, HHS and St. Joe’s combined have fewer than five COVID patients in intensive care units (ICU).

Mertz said the current numbers are on par with what was seen in the city around December.

“ICU admission is remaining relatively stable … the expectation for the peak here would be next week,” Mertz said.

Public health has reported seven new COVID-related deaths across the city over the past seven days — five persons aged over 80.

The agency says there have been 20 deaths in the past 30 days bumping the city’s total pandemic fatalities to 549.

Over 360 COVID cases connected to 26 institutional outbreaks in Hamilton

Institutional outbreaks across Hamilton dropped over the last seven days to 26 from 30 confirmed surges involving 364 total cases as of Friday.

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A month ago, public health reported almost half as many cases (151) connected with 16 outbreaks.

More than 270 of the 364 total outbreak cases are tied to surges at homes with seniors. Around 220 of those are cases among residents.

The ten surges at long-term care homes in Hamilton are tied to cases among 168 residents and staff combined.

Over 88 per cent of Hamiltonians 12-plus fully vaccinated

Hamilton’s COVID-19 vaccination program has reached over 90.5 per cent of Hamiltonians aged 12 and up in first dose coverage. About 88.2 per cent have had second doses while 54.8 per cent have had at least one booster.

The city’s average shots per day (837) for the first part of May are slightly off compared to all of April’s daily average by about 4.45 per cent.

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April’s daily average was up about 117 per cent compared to the average in all of March.

More than 91 per cent of Ontarians aged 12 and older have had at least a single dose and 91.2 per cent are fully vaccinated.

As of May 6, the city has put about 1.25 million COVID-19 vaccine doses into arms with about 472,000 second doses and 296,000 third shots.

Public health has administered close to 24,000 fourth doses as of early May and has been averaging about 770 shots per day since eligibility was expanded in early April.

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