Kingston Health Sciences Centre (KHSC) is once again accepting patient transfers as the province is experiencing a surge of young patients with respiratory illnesses.
According to a release from KHSC, earlier this month Ontario Health directed hospitals across Ontario to prepare to receive pediatric transfers as a result of large volumes at hospitals such as SickKids in Toronto and CHEO in Ottawa. Since then, KHSC has received 10 pediatric patient transfers from outside of southeastern Ontario.
The pediatric patient surge across the province is a result of COVID-19, Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV) and Influenza, according to the release. Last week, Dr. Piotr Oglaza, Medical Officer of Health (MOH) for Kingston, Frontenac, Lennox and Addington (KFL&A) Public Health spoke to the media about the increase in respiratory illnesses. “Twenty per cent of all emergency room visits are due to respiratory complaints — which is… an unprecedented high for this time of year,” he stated, noting that many of these visits involve children.
According to CritiCall Ontario, which helps organize transfers of hospitalized patients across the province, last year KHSC was ranked among the top five hospitals in terms of the number of patient transfers received.
“As we did in the spring of 2021, when we accepted over 150 COVID-19 patients from the GTA, KHSC is once again proving that we are a critical resource for the Ontario health care system in providing complex and specialty care,” said President and CEO Dr. David Pichora. “We are one of the few hospitals in Ontario that operates a full pediatric program, including a Pediatric Intensive Care Unit (PICU) and we will do our part to ensure that the children who need it, will get the highest quality of care here in Kingston.”
At the same time, KHSC is seeing an increase in demand for pediatric care in Kingston and the surrounding region, according to the release.
“We have been seeing record volumes at the Children’s Outpatient Clinic (COPC) at our Hotel Dieu Hospital site, about 85 per cent of which is related to respiratory illness,” said Jason Hann, Executive Vice-President of Patient Care and Chief Nursing Officer. “Throughout September we saw an average of about 250 children per week at COPC and last two weeks we have seen more than 320.”
Further complicating matters has been continuing shortage of children’s Tylenol and Advil, which can be used to help parents manage these conditions by lowering fevers for children who are sick, resulting in more visits to the COPC, the hospital agency stated.
“Meanwhile in our inpatient pediatric unit we have seen a lot of children hospitalized as a result of RSV and our PICU is also running at 125 per cent capacity,” Hann continued. “We are working to flex space and resources to accommodate this growing pediatric need.”
As well, KHSC continues to see large volumes of adult patients through the Emergency Department, according to the release, and is working to address surgical backlogs that grew during the pandemic, while at the same time navigating the ongoing health care staffing shortage that is being felt by hospitals across the province.
“The credit for much of our success can really go to our front-line care teams and leaders who go above and beyond to meet the needs of our community on a daily basis as well as ensuring we can play a role provincially to support surges in patient needs,” said Hann.
As for advice to parents through this growing wave of respiratory illness, “I would encourage families to consider masking in public spaces, isolate children at home if they are not feeling well, make sure your family is vaccinated against COVID-19 and influenza, and practice good hand hygiene and physical distancing,” he said.
Parents who are looking for more information about how to care for children with respiratory illnesses such as RSV, influenza and COVID, are encouraged to read this document, which contains tips from the Ontario College of Family Physicians, and has been endorsed by the Frontenac, Lennox and Addington Ontario Health Team.