Ottawa kids’ hospital opens second intensive care unit as viral admissions surge

A sign directing visitors to the emergency department is shown at CHEO, Friday, May 15, 2015 in Ottawa. The large pediatric hospital says it’s contending with “unprecedented demand” as it reports a surge in cases of a common respiratory virus.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld. ajw

An Ontario children’s hospital has opened a second intensive care unit to treat what it says is an unprecedented number of critically ill babies and young children.

The Ottawa-based Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario, or CHEO, says the peak viral season has arrived early, sending kids to the hospital at levels “never before seen” in its history.

Dr. Lindy Samson, chief of staff at CHEO, says provincial funding made it possible for the hospital respond to the crisis, as the hospital sees more than double its normal volume of young patients who are arriving sicker than usual.

The new ICU is made up of five more beds temporarily reassigned from the hospital’s surgical day unit, with clinicians trained in critical care reassigned from other areas to staff it.

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CHEO says it is also hiring and reassigning staff to patient-facing roles in emergency, acute and critical care.

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Samson renewed calls for the people of Ottawa to wear masks indoors to reduce the spread of viral illnesses like COVID-19.

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