Pediatric hospital appointments cancelled in Sask. as COVID numbers rise

·3 min read
Carter Howard-Orth (centre), 12, holds one of his brothers. (Submitted by Keira Orth - image credit)
Carter Howard-Orth (centre), 12, holds one of his brothers. (Submitted by Keira Orth - image credit)

Twelve-year-old Carter Howard-Orth was supposed to be seen by a cardiologist at the Jim Pattison Children's Hospital in Saskatoon this week.

Instead, because of the record number of COVID-19 patients in hospital in Saskatchewan, he is one of many children in the province whose appointments have been indefinitely delayed.

Howard-Orth was born with a congenital heart defect and is supposed to have an echocardiogram every six months to monitor his health.

"Eventually, he will need a heart valve replacement," said his mother Kiera Orth. "As he is growing, we just wait for him to show signs of the function of that valve declining, and then he will be a candidate for a valve replacement."

Since Orth found out her son's appointment was cancelled, she has been calling "whoever they'll put me through to on the hospital switchboard," trying to find a way to get him seen.

She said they are planning for surgery in the next few years, so these appointments are very important.

"I'm very worried," she said. "If you were to speak to the cardiologist, she would say he has significant heart valve disease. He is a critical patient within their care, and he should be seen."

While Orth believes no one person is to blame for the situation, she wants policymakers to consider children like her son when crafting public health orders.

Earlier this week, the Saskatchewan Health Authority announced that some pediatric ICU beds at the Jim Pattison Children's Hospital in Saskatoon were being used to treat adult patients because of a lack of capacity elsewhere in the health-care system.

Without access to the Jim Pattison Children's Hospital and its cardiology equipment, children like Howard-Orth have very few options to get their regular medical care.

"These appointments are not something that can be done in Saskatchewan by video," said Orth. "We don't have the equipment down here in Langenburg to have pediatric echocardiogram machines and pediatric ultrasound machines."

Despite the circumstances, Orth said her son is in good spirits and has been spending lots of time playing with his younger brothers. Still, she said, the situation has been weighing on him.

"There is definitely some worry in him, because of the unknown," she said.

'Very upsetting and frustrating'

Howard-Orth and his family are not alone in facing these cancellations and delays.

Jesse Andrews is pleading with people to get vaccinated after her toddler's surgery was cancelled to free up more hospital capacity for COVID-19 patients.

'We just want people to get vaccinated," said Andrews. "The majority of people in the hospital using the resources and getting COVID are the unvaccinated, so I just want people to help decrease the strain on the health-care system by getting their vaccine."

Submitted by Jesse Andrews
Submitted by Jesse Andrews

Two-and-a-half-year-old Jackson Andrews, Jesse's son, has DiGeorge Syndrome, which has caused poor development of several of his body systems. He spent the first three months of his life in the hospital.

Jackson was supposed to get surgery this week for his cleft palate, which has been making it difficult for him to eat, swallow and communicate.

On Monday, Jesse heard from her son's surgeon that the procedure would not be going ahead. She has "no idea" when they will be able to re-book.

"Because of everything going on with COVID, there just wasn't enough staffing to staff the ORs," Andrews said.

Andrews said the news was "very upsetting and frustrating," because this surgery would go a long way toward improving her son's quality of life.

"We've been waiting for about a year now, and we were very excited about the potential for what this surgery could do for Jackson," she said.

As COVID-19 patients continue to strain the province's health-care system, children like Jackson can only wait for hospitals to be able to treat them again.

As of Sept. 22, there were 265 people with COVID-19 hospitalized in the province. More than three quarters of them were unvaccinated.

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