‘Children are dying’: Family speaks out about fallout from surge in respiratory infections

Click to play video: '‘Children are dying’: Family that relied on respite care speaks out about fallout from surge in respiratory infections'
‘Children are dying’: Family that relied on respite care speaks out about fallout from surge in respiratory infections
An Airdrie mom is worried about the halt in respite services at the Rotary Flames House in Calgary. Staff are being moved from the pediatric hospice to the Alberta Children's Hospital to deal with the seriously ill patients there. Carolyn Kury de Castillo reports – Dec 5, 2022

The Rotary Flames House has been a lifeline over the years for Lia Lousier and her family, but that lifeline is coming to a temporary, yet still unexpected close.

Lousier’s 11-year-old son, Braeden Lousier-Hicks has Hajdu-Cheney syndrome, an extremely rare condition that affects many of his organs and bones. He’s struggled with health issues his entire life.

Lousier said it was critical for her and her three boys to get a break from the daily demands at home.

“It was a really positive experience,” she said about her family’s time at the Rotary Flames House. “It’s something that parents rely on — knowing somebody has your back,”

On Friday, Alberta Health Services announced staff at Rotary Flames House are being redeployed to the Alberta Children’s Hospital because of a surge in respiratory illness.

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All clients will be discharged from respite care by Tuesday. All other services provided at the Rotary Flames House, including palliative and end-of-life care, consultative support, outpatient programming and grief support, will be temporarily relocated to the Alberta Children’s Hospital.

Read more: ‘The numbers are staggering’: Patient surge at Alberta Children’s Hospital results in halt of respite services

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“My first reaction was anger,” Lousier said. “Then it was sadness because it’s important to have that one place that’s a home away from home that gives parents that time where they can sleep or they can do a short holiday or trip to see family,”

“My thought when I saw it was why are we, as a society, forcing AHS to make difficult decisions when we could be doing things differently,” said Dr. Jon Meddings when he first heard the news on Friday.

Meddings, a past dean of the Cumming School Medicine at the University of Calgary, said a number of things could have been done differently prior to the crisis in pediatric care.

He is frustrated with the low vaccination numbers for influenza and COVID booster shots and with the push back against preventative measures, like masking.

Read more: Health experts worried about Alberta’s low flu vaccine uptake: ‘We are seeing healthy kids brought down’

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“What I can’t forgive is our government actually pushing that public health restrictions should not be in place. I’m not talking about restrictions, but voluntarily I would love to see some of our government leaders stand up and say we have a crisis in our healthcare system,” Meddings said.

Meddings said vaccination is utterly critical as the first line of defense.

“Children are dying. Children are having care delayed. There’s not enough ICU space. They are going to be children who die from this needlessly who should not have done so.”

Meddings said it’s important for people who are being swayed by misinformation to be encouraged by elected officials to follow proven health recommendations.

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“To see people that they trust and believe in getting up and saying, ‘for heaven’s sake do the right thing. I’m doing it.’ But when the message is, in fact, subtly the opposite, it has devastating effects on our healthcare system and we are seeing that happen.

“I’m not saying that every year we need to mask but I think we know there are some simple things that prevent this. Simple things that we should either be doing voluntarily or simple things our government and our public health officials should be strongly encouraging us to do.”

Lousier said it’s a difficult time for parents of vulnerable kids losing respite care and the constant worry of ending up in the hospital.

“I think the root of all the evil of all of this is misinformation,” Lousier said.

An AHS official said on Sunday, “we know this decision on respite care is difficult for our clients and families. We will resume normal services as quickly as possible.”

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