SickKids to reduce number of surgeries to focus on critical care amid influx of ICU patients

Toronto's Hospital for Sick Children says it will reduce the number of surgeries it performs to preserve its critical care capacity. The move takes effect on Monday. (Carlos Osorio/CBC - image credit)
Toronto's Hospital for Sick Children says it will reduce the number of surgeries it performs to preserve its critical care capacity. The move takes effect on Monday. (Carlos Osorio/CBC - image credit)

Toronto's Hospital for Sick Children says it will reduce the number of surgeries it performs starting on Monday to preserve its ability to provide critical care as it grapples with a spike in respiratory infections.

In a statement on its website on Friday, SickKids said the move will enable the hospital to make urgent, emergency and time sensitive surgeries a priority. Its administration teams will contact families whose scheduled procedures will be affected., the hospital said.

SickKids said it had "no choice" but to make the decision. The hospital said its intensive care unit has been above 127 per cent capacity for several days. More than half of its ICU patients, which includes cardiac ICU patients, are breathing with the help of ventilators, it said.

"This decision was not taken lightly," Dr. Ronald Cohn, president and CEO of SickKids, said in the statement.

"The reduction in surgical activity will allow us to support areas of the hospital that need help managing increasing patient volumes and acuity, including the critical care units, pediatric medicine and Emergency Department."

The hospital said "its community partners" have also reached their maximum capacity and it is now supporting doctors virtually to care for pediatric patients who would otherwise receive care at SickKids.

Endoscopy services and image-guided therapy, provided by the hospital, will also make urgent cases and patients already in the hospital a priority, SickKids said.

Evan Mitsui/CBC
Evan Mitsui/CBC

Cohn said everyone at SickKids "is going above and beyond, doing the best they can, for patients and families, and for each other, during this difficult time."

Children's hospitals across Ontario have been overwhelmed over the past month, largely due to influenza and respiratory syncytial virus, both of which have hit a month earlier than usual.

Children and teens have been going to emergency departments in the province at a rate two-to-three times higher than usual this time of year, according to statistics from Acute Care Enhanced Surveillance, a real-time Ontario-wide system that monitors hospital registration records.

Mississauga, Credit Valley hospitals merge pediatric units

Other hospitals in the Greater Toronto Area are making decisions as well to cope with an influx of children who need care.

Trillium Health Partners, said in a statement on Friday that it has consolidated the pediatric unit at Mississauga Hospital with that of Credit Valley Hospital. All pediatric patients are being cared for at Credit Valley Hospital currently, it said.

Trillium Health Partners is a hospital network with three sites — Credit Valley Hospital, Mississauga Hospital and Queensway Health Centre

"By working together on one site, our clinical teams have been able to keep the same number of beds open to support children and families in need," Keeley Rogers, spokesperson for Trillium Health Partners, said in the statement.

"We want to assure you that this has not decreased access to high quality care in our community and region,"

Rogers said Mississauga Hospital's emergency department remains open to pediatric patients, and if they need to be admitted to hospital, they will be transferred to Credit Valley Hospital for care.

"As part of our surge plans, we will continue to reassess our space to ensure we are maximizing all available bed spaces within our hospitals, actively recruit new staff, and introduce additional clinics and resources to support our children in our community," he said.

Earlier this week, the Children's Hospital of Eastern Ontario in Ottawa opened a second ICU to deal with an "unprecedented major surge."

It has cancelled non-urgent surgeries and redeployed staff to meet the demand. Similar situations are affecting the children's hospital in Hamilton.