‘Very troublesome flu season’ anticipated, Head of London, Ontario. Youngsters’s Hospital Emergency Division says – London

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With COVID-19 infections rising and hospitals across Ontario facing staff shortages and long waits, officials at London Children’s Hospital anticipate the upcoming cold and flu season will pose a much greater challenge to already strained local health workers.

Two factors in particular play into the uniqueness of this upcoming cold and flu season, says LHSC’s chief of pediatric emergency departments – children who have been absent from the classroom for two years due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and the uncertainty of when the season starts will actually start.

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“There is a phenomenon that when parents send their children to school for the first time, they are sick all year round because they have not been exposed to viruses in their lives or in the past,” said Dr. Rod Lim, Site Manager, Pediatric Emergency Department, Children’s Hospital.

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“But we know that children have basically been protected for two to two and a half years, so the vulnerability of the population is very high and the mix has almost returned to pre-pandemic levels. So we expect this to be quite a challenging season.”

Lim adds that respiratory viruses also don’t follow historical time trends, meaning healthcare workers don’t know when influenza will strike and whether it will correspond with other viruses that may be circulating, such as COVID-19 or the respiratory syncytial virus. or RSV.

“We’ve had viruses in the summer that we’ve never seen before at this time of year,” he said, referring to RSV, which usually occurs in February and March but occurs throughout the summer. The flu season typically starts in December and runs through January and February, he said.

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“We have no idea if it will be earlier this year. All signs seem to indicate that this will likely be the case. And we don’t know if it will be more of a prolonged increase because of the vulnerability of the population,” he said.

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“We know the flu is already starting in the southern United States, which is early days. So we anticipate this to be a very difficult flu season for us. And we are already seeing record volumes in our ER, both in terms of sharpness and numbers.”

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As a result, parents in the London area are being urged to immunize their children against COVID-19 and influenza and to keep family members at home if they feel ill to reduce virus transmission.

Past cold and flu seasons have been milder due to measures taken during the COVID-19 pandemic, including mask requirements, physical distancing, and pandemic-related lockdowns and restrictions. During the last flu season in London, just 50 laboratory-confirmed cases were reported by the Middlesex-London Health Unit.

The news comes as LHSC grapples with staffing challenges brought on by retirements, people leaving the profession for good, and frustration over frozen wages that have resulted in long wait times for patients.

Last week, on the afternoon of October 6, the organization recorded waits of 18 hours or more for non-urgent and non-urgent matters in the University and Victoria Hospital emergency departments, while LHSC reported in September that there were 540 nursing vacancies it had to be filled.

“We are already exceeding our historical volumes for the month of September and are forecasting worsening case numbers over the next few months,” Lim said for all respiratory viruses.

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The same challenges have been observed at other hospitals in the province.

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According to data from Ontario Health in August, the most recent month for which data is available, emergency patients in the province waited an average of 1.9 hours before being seen by a doctor for the first time. The average time emergency patients spent in the hospital was 20.7 hours.

But an Ontario health report leaked by Liberals this week says that in August 90 percent of ER patients waited up to 4.2 hours to see a doctor for the first time, and despite patient traffic up to 44, 1 hours stayed in hospital when admitted lower than in August 2021.

Lim says the children’s hospital pediatric emergency room feels the same pressures as the adult emergency room when it comes to increased patient numbers and increased acuteness, that is, patients who need more extensive and complex medical care.

“Not a shift goes by that we’re not trying to juggle, be creative to see kids on time,” said Lim, who has been the site manager of the pediatric emergency room for 15 years.

“I thank my team for doing their best to provide the kind of care we believe in. But without a doubt, this is one of the most challenging times of my career to try and maintain this level of care that we demand.”

– with files by Colin D’Mello of Global News and The Canadian Press

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