Connect  |  Newsletter  |  Donate

‘Things could get worse’: New warning from Ontario children’s hospital as flu rates rise

Posted: December 12, 2022

(December 12, 2022)

By: Colin D’Mello, Global News

An Ontario hospital is issuing a blunt warning that the crisis in pediatric care could “get worse” as influenza rates among children spike in the province.

The Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario (CHEO) has been under immense pressure as a result of a triple threat of respiratory illnesses that have sent children to intensive care units in record numbers.

The Ottawa-area hospital said 149 patients had to admitted to hospital for the respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) in November — the most ever in a single month, the hospital said — forcing administrators to postpone surgeries, open a secondary pediatric ICU, and lean on the Red Cross for additional staffing resources.

While the latest federal data shows the surge in RSV in Ontario has largely flattened in recent weeks, the number of cases of influenza appears to be on the rise — with CHEO warning it could place additional strain on its already taxed system.

Graph showing the rise in pediatric flu cases in the Ottawa area.
Graph showing the rise in pediatric flu cases in the Ottawa area. CHEO

CHEO officials released a graph showing a “staggering” increase in the number of lab-confirmed cases of Influenza A and B, with 992 cases being identified in the region since September.

“Yet another historic number,” the hospital said in a news release. “In November alone, we admitted 73 influenza cases, the highest number aside from one month during H1N1 in 2009.”

The hospital expressed worries that the pace of admission and volume of patients isn’t expected to slow down anytime soon. Multiple health-care-sector officials have told Global News the system is bracing for an increase in patient volumes over the next four to six weeks.

“For influenza, it is really just beginning,” officials with CHEO said. “Things could get worse.”

The overwhelming number of young patients has forced the province to take extraordinary measures including planning to potentially fly patients across the border into American hospitals should the province run out of pediatric beds.

Already, Ornge told Global News the service has flown patients hundreds of kilometers away from their home community to an available bed.

On Monday, Health Minister Sylvia Jones said while “it’s not ideal” to have a child moved far away from home, it’s a necessary solution to accessing care. “By doing that air transport that child is able to be assessed and treated soon,” Jones said at an unrelated news conference.

But with another wave of patients, pressure is mounting on Premier Doug Ford to present additional measures to ease the burden on the health-care system.

“This is beyond emergency, this is like nothing we’ve seen before and we cannot believe the total failure of the Ford government to react,” said Natalie Mehra with the Ontario Health Coalition.

When pressed for a response, Premier Ford urged Ontarians to get their flu shot.

Click here for original article