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CHEO Seeing Highest-Ever Volumes in Emergency; Seeks Community’s Help to Reduce Wait Times
OTTAWA – The Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario (CHEO) is in the midst of the busiest viral season in its 38-year history. CHEO encourages families whose children have less-urgent symptoms to visit their child’s doctor or use community clinics as an alternative to waiting up to 6-8 hours in the Emergency Department.

“CHEO will always make sure that kids who urgently need our help will get our help. But it’s important that families with less-urgent conditions look at other options available to them in the community,” said Dr. Ken Farion, Medical Director, Emergency, CHEO.

February and March are typically the busiest months in CHEO’s Emergency Department due to the high rates of respiratory infections and viral illnesses. However, CHEO is currently seeing 15% more patients than last year, and 33% more than the previous year. Wednesday, for instance, CHEO saw more than 265 patients in the 24 hour period.

CHEO made significant improvements to the Emergency Department experience for families in recent years, in part with support from the Ministry of Health’s Emergency Department Wait-times Strategy. Last fiscal year, for instance, CHEO earned bonus funding by ensuring that 90% of patients were helped within wait time targets.

“We were very proud of what we accomplished as a team, but even after those improvements the current volumes are simply too high. And it is clear that the biggest part of this increase is patients with less-urgent cases that could be seen elsewhere,” said Dr. Farion. “To ensure the resources are available when a child or youth really needs us, we are asking for the community’s help in making appropriate decisions about when to come to Emergency.”

You should go to Emergency if your child:
  • Has many episodes of diarrhea or vomiting in a day and signs of dehydration (no tears, a very dry mouth, has not urinated at least two to three times over the last 24 hours)
  • Is under three months of age and has a fever over 38° C or 100.4° F
  • Develops a rash that does not turn white when you push on it.
  • Has a fever and is difficult to wake up or is very sleepy.
  • Has severe pain, chest pain or tightness in the chest.
  • Is experiencing shortness of breath, choking or difficulty breathing (for example: breathing much faster than normal; looks pale or has whitish or bluish lips; is coughing excessively, choking or breathing irregularly).
  • May have broken a bone.
  • Has sudden, severe headaches, vision problems, sudden weakness, numbness and/or tingling in the face, arm or leg, trouble speaking, or dizziness.
  • Has repeated vomiting following an injury to the head or belly.
  • Has a serious mental health crisis
  • During viral season, CHEO strongly emphasizes that you encourage your sick child to drink extra fluids, you appropriately treat fever symptoms to make them more comfortable and encourage regular hand washing. Please keep sick children home from school or daycare to avoid spreading illness to others.

    To learn more about what to expect when you go to CHEO’s emergency department, watch this video.

    CHEO also has a number of on-line brochures to help parents with symptoms of viral illness, including fever, vomiting and diarrhea, ear infections, bronchiolitis (fever, wheezing, coughing and choking in infants, common at this time of year) and influenza. These can be found on the Health Information page of our website.

The following health information services are also available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week:

  • Poison Control at 1-800-268-9017: Will provide callers with information relating to exposure or injection to poisons and toxic substances
  • Telehealth Ontario: 1-866-797-0000: Will provide callers with for free access to registered nurses who will provide answers to health-related questions
  • Quebec CLSC: 819 -770-6900, during the daytime. After hours listen to the recording for directions, which give a telephone number to call in the Outaouais region;
  • Your local Community Health Centre or a Family Medical Center: Can assist with minor emergencies such as stitches. See telephone listing for “clinics” the yellow pages or
  • Mental Health Crisis Line: 613-722-6914 in Ottawa or 1-866-281-2911 outside the city, provides assistance to those 16 years of age and older
  • Youth Services Bureau (YSB) 24/7 Crisis Line: Provides help for children, youth & families 613-260-2360 or 1-877-377-7775 )

For more information please contact Marie Belanger, CHEO media relations 613-737-2343

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