P.E.I. child development assessments 'getting back on track' following delays

·2 min read
A one-year-old is shown during a full development assessment. Many nurses had to be pulled from their usual duties during the pandemic, meaning development assessments had to be scaled back or put on hold. (CBC - image credit)
A one-year-old is shown during a full development assessment. Many nurses had to be pulled from their usual duties during the pandemic, meaning development assessments had to be scaled back or put on hold. (CBC - image credit)

Public Health Nursing staff in P.E.I. are regularly performing assessments of young children's growth and development once again following two years of COVID-19.

Many nurses had to be pulled from their usual duties during the pandemic to focus on COVID-19 vaccinations and contact tracing. That meant the full development assessments for children normally performed along with their immunization schedule had to be scaled back or put on hold.

Those assessments are happening again and Public Health nurses are taking stock of the situation. They're dealing with a backlog caused by a spike in COVID-19 spikes earlier this year.

"Some children would have been ill at the time their appointment would have been scheduled, or parents may have been ill," said Corinne Rowswell, Health P.E.I.'s chief operating officer.

"It just creates a bit of a backlog because they have to wait for the next available appointment," said Rowswell. "So part of what we've been doing from the beginning of April on is just really assessing where children are at and ensuring that we're getting back on track."

The full development assessments gauge things such as motor skills, communication, growth and nutrition. They're supposed to happen multiple times during the first years in the life of a child.

Rowswell said all those missed assessments over the past two years will definitely have an impact on children's health.

"The purpose of a screening tool is to identify early so you can do an early intervention," she said. "So we would be anticipating that we would be seeing a bit of a bubble on the number of issues that may need to be managed."

Tara Lelacheur, a mother of three, said it is important.

"My oldest, he had his 18-month assessment back in 2017. And he was slow with talking, so he was a bit behind. So they were able to refer us to a speech language pathologist. We were able to catch that early on."

Lelacheur said some of his children missed their assessments because of the pandemic. Her eldest child didn't get his four-year assessment.

"My second child, he'll be four in September," she said. "Hopefully, he'll be able to go for that, just to have a bit of peace of mind, I guess. If there is a problem, we can get it sorted out before he starts kindergarten."

In the meantime, Rowswell said nurses are doing all they can to clear the backlog.

"The Public Health Nursing team have been working really hard," she said. "They've been bringing in all the extra staff to do that catchup. And I would like to reassure the public that that is being caught up as we speak."

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