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CHEO Emergency volumes 15% higher than normal

OTTAWA — Oct. 20, 2017 — The number of visits to the Emergency Department at the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario (CHEO) is 15% higher this October than for the same period last year. For the past several years there has also been a steady increase in the total number of CHEO Emergency Department visits, yet the hospital has managed to hold the line on wait times. Given the current volumes, CHEO is asking families who come to Emergency to prepare for longer-than-usual waits or to explore whether they have alternative care options.

In September, 44% of all visits to the Emergency Department were assessed as low acuity, or not needing emergency treatment. Because urgent cases are seen first, families with a less urgent problem can expect to have longer wait times in a crowded Emergency Department.

Added to these higher-than-normal volumes, hospital staff expects that low-acuity waits may be even longer in the coming weeks as CHEO begins using its new digital health record system in the Emergency Department. The new system will provide many benefits for patient care and safety, but in the short term some tasks may take a bit longer as staff adapts.

“When a child is ill, we know it’s stressful to wait for care and deciding what to do can be difficult for parents,” says Dr. Gina Neto, CHEO’s Chief of Emergency Medicine. “Before making a trip to Emergency and facing potentially long waits as we manage higher volumes, we encourage families to consult some of the available online resources to help their decision. Often the child’s primary care provider is the best option.”

Normally, the Emergency Department sees peak volumes in February and March — mostly caused by high rates of respiratory infections and viral illnesses. October’s volumes are approaching those levels.

“Most fever and cough in healthy, immunized children is from a virus and can be managed at home, or with a check-up by a family doctor or clinic,” adds Dr. Neto.

Many common conditions can be managed safely at home or in a primary care provider’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. (A temperature of 38.5C or higher is considered a fever in healthy infants and children over 3 months of age.)
  •  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 or 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 or trauma treatment — many other tests and procedures are available in community medical offices, clinics and labs. 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.

Along with Ottawa Public Health, CHEO is also encouraging residents to be prepared for the upcoming flu season by getting a flu shot. Find out more about flu and vaccinations at

CHEO, the Canadian Pediatric Society and Ottawa Public Health all have websites with health information that can help parents to recognize when children and youth need to visit to the Emergency Department:

There are also resources that can help parents find a walk-in clinic or family doctor:

  • Walk-in clinics in Ontario: call 211 or visit
  • Walk-in clinics in Quebec: call Info-Santé (811) or your local CLSC.
  • Finding a family doctor in Ontario: contact Health Care Connects online or by calling 1-800-445-1822
  • Finding a family doctor in Quebec: contact your local CLSC, call Info-Santé (811) or register by visiting the Québec Family Doctor Finder


Media Contact

Paddy Moore
Media Relations, CHEO – OCTC
m. 613-769-5553


The Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario – Ottawa Children’s Treatment Centre (CHEO –OCTC) is the leading provider of specialized pediatric health services in Canada's capital. CHEO’s programs help over 500,000 children and youth each year in Eastern Ontario, Western Quebec, Nunavut and parts of Northern Ontario. As a world-class research centre and teaching hospital, for over 40 years CHEO has changed young lives in our community, while our innovations change young lives around the world. For more than 65 years, OCTC has been providing specialized care for children and youth with disabilities, including cerebral palsy, complex needs associated with congenital conditions, developmental delay, autism spectrum disorders and brain injury. The two previously separate organizations recently joined forces to become one organization, stronger together for kids and families.

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