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CHEO encourages parents to choose wisely and keep Emergency for emergencies
Ottawa, May 13, 2015 — The Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario (CHEO) wants to help parents decide when to visit the Emergency Department. Starting this week , CHEO is launching a Choose Wisely program to give parents information about better ways to get care for fevers, colds, coughs, rashes and minor injuries – so that we can keep Emergency for emergencies.

“We know how hard it is for parents to decide what to do when their child is ill,” says Dr. Gina Neto, Chief of Emergency Medicine at CHEO. “Unfortunately coming to the Emergency department costs the health care system a lot more than care in a family doctor’s office or walk-in clinic — and makes it harder for us to care for the children and youth who really need our specialized help.”

The pressure on pediatric emergency rooms across Canada is growing rapidly, according to Dr. Ken Farion, who led a one-year study at CHEO that looked at the reasons for emergency visits. “Most families believed their child needed specialized care, but the majority just needed assessment or simple tests that can be done by a primary care provider.”

At the end of their visit, every parent visiting Emergency at CHEO will get feedback from the doctor about how serious their child’s illness or injury was, on a scale from non-urgent to urgent to life-threatening. No patients will be turned away.

Doctors will talk to parents about how to manage symptoms at home, and provide a handout that helps parents to judge when a fever, injury or common symptom is an emergency. They will encourage parents – the next time care is needed – to take their child to a family doctor, pediatrician or walk-in clinic for medical issues that don’t need a hospital’s care.

Over 200 patients are seen in CHEO’s Emergency department on average each day, and of those, 80-100 could have been managed safely and effectively by a family doctor. In other words, the number of non-emergency cases being seen in the Emergency department is almost one in two.

Making the situation even more difficult, the total number of emergency visits to CHEO has increased steadily over the past five years — to over 72,000 patients last year. And according to the research done at CHEO, 9 out of 10 patients who visit Emergency already have a primary care provider.

Many common conditions can be managed safely at home or in a family doctor’s office, such as:
  • Fever in healthy and vaccinated children who are generally well and playful when the fever is brought down with ibuprofen or acetaminophen.
  • Breathing problems due to nasal congestion and cough, common cold symptoms, or mild asthma symptoms that respond to puffers.
  • Vomiting or diarrhea that occurs less than 3-4 times per day, or ongoing diarrhea after stomach flu, which can last up to two weeks.
Although some procedures are usually only available in a hospital, such as stitches, casts, trauma treatment, or isolation for infectious diseases, many other tests and procedures are available in doctors’ offices, clinics and medical labs in the community. Many families assume their primary care provider won’t be available for an acute problem, but many practices offer same-day appointments, after-hours clinics or telephone advice for their patients.

CHEO, the Canadian Pediatric Society and Ottawa Public Health all have websites with health information that can help parents to recognize when a problem warrants a trip to the Emergency department.

There are also resources that can help parents find a walk-in clinic or family doctor:
About CHEO
The Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario (CHEO) is Canada’s capital pediatric hospital and helps over 500,000 children and youth each year. CHEO has more than 2,500 doctors, nurses and staff dedicated to providing the best possible care for the children and youth of Eastern Ontario, Western Quebec, Nunavut and parts of Northern Ontario.

CHEO works closely with the University of Ottawa as a teaching hospital and fosters groundbreaking research through the CHEO Research Institute. CHEO’s vision is to change young lives in our community, while our innovation changes young lives around the world.

For more information please contact:

Eva Schacherl
Communications Manager and Strategist
Cell: 613-769-5553
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