Kids’s Hospital in London, Ontario. Cancellation, discount of operations

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London Children’s Hospital is canceling and reducing surgeries as it grapples with an influx of patients amid a rise in respiratory illnesses across the province.

The London Health Sciences Center (LHSC) said it made the decision late last week to scale back surgical activity at Children’s Hospital as it “manages a significant increase in the volume of emerging healthcare from patients”.

“This is an extremely difficult decision and I wish we didn’t have to make it,” Nash Syed, president of Children’s Hospital, said in a Nov. 22 news release. “The decision to reduce surgical activities is necessary to ensure our teams are able to meet critical care and emergency needs.”

Syed added that the hospital will be in touch with families whose scheduled procedures will be affected and will work to reschedule surgeries in a timely manner.

According to the LHSC, occupancy is at a peak and the hospital simply does not have enough resources to keep up with demand.

“The occupancy rate of the inpatient beds in the children’s hospital is currently 115 percent, exceeding our experience at the peak of the pandemic. Daily emergency room visits are 80 percent higher than normal, with wait times averaging six to eight hours,” LHSC said in the press release.

According to the LHSC, the children’s hospital has responded to the deteriorating situation by increasing inpatient capacity by 117 percent and critical care capacity by 150 percent, and using the children’s outpatient clinic space to relieve the hospital’s emergency department.

The hospital also transfers children over the age of 14 to the adult intensive care unit (ICU) when it is safe and necessary. The move follows guidance released earlier this month by the Ontario Critical Care COVID-19 Command Center, which advises hospitals to admit juvenile ICU patients in adult ICUs to free up space in children’s hospitals, which are seeing a surge in pediatric ICU patients.

LHSC says it will continue to evaluate and adjust operational decisions as the situation evolves.

Last week, Toronto’s Hospital for Sick Children also began putting some surgeries on hold to “maintain critical care capacity” amid a significant increase in patient numbers.

Many children’s hospitals across Ontario have recently reported notable increases in patient numbers due to increases in respiratory viruses, including influenza and COVID-19. They also recently saw that their ICU beds were full.

To limit the spread of COVID-19 and other respiratory viruses, LHSC encourages the public to keep up to date with their immunizations, stay home when sick, wash hands regularly, and wear a mask in indoor public places.