Respite care at the Rotary Flames House in Calgary is on hold to help address the increase in patients at the Alberta Children’s Hospital.
Alberta Health Services said it will work with families now using respite care, which gives family members a short break from caring for their sick children. All patients are expected to be discharged by Tuesday.
Other services provided at Rotary Flames House, such as palliative care and bereavement support, will be temporarily moved to the children’s hospital.
“We need to prioritize those children who are acutely ill and make sure we are here for them,” said Margaret Fullerton, the senior operations officer at Alberta Children’s Hospital.
“We have a lot of plans in place and we continue to change the plans as needed, but we know that the respiratory surge has hit us – and I know everyone has seen it in their children and in the schools – and it’s certainly affecting us ,” says Fullerton. “So this is the next part of our plan that we are doing to really make sure that we prioritize the acutely ill children and make sure that they get the care that they need.”
“It is quite sad that it has come to this,” says Dr. Sam Wong, president of the pediatric section of the Alberta Medical Association.
“I know they are trying to keep the operations open as long as possible. I think they’re trying to minimize the impact on the rest of the patients as much as possible, but it’s now starting to have an impact on patient care in other areas than just inpatient and emergency.”
AHS redeploys staff to Alberta Children’s Hospital as respiratory viruses rise
Wong said he had never seen anything like it in his 25 years of working as a pediatrician or a pediatric resident.
“The numbers are staggering. It is truly unprecedented, the number of diseases we are seeing. The children who come in often have double viruses and this makes them sicker. There are a lot of things going on that are really stressing the system to its maximum,” said Wong.
The CEO of Children First Canada is calling for strong messages from all levels of government to deal with a crisis she says could have been avoided.
“Children’s lives are at stake and this is really an urgent situation that requires leadership from all levels of government to resolve,” Sara Austin said Saturday.
“Insist that parents vaccinate their children, wear masks indoors and take the necessary preventive measures, but also make the tough decisions at a public policy level to protect the health of our children,”
“This is a crisis that was preventable,” Austin said. “Kids get sick from preventable diseases, and we know the solutions needed to keep them healthy and sane. There is currently significant neglect on the part of our government leaders when it comes to measures needed to protect our children,” said Austin.
AHS pauses respite care at Rotary Flames House as demand increases at Alberta Children’s Hospital
Wong said he is disappointed in the low uptake of flu and COVID vaccinations in Alberta. He said getting the flu shot is one way to reduce the burden on emergency departments.
“I would strongly urge parents to have their children vaccinated against COVID and flu. Now is not the time to hold out. This is the time to get vaccinated and try to have a safe and decent Christmas holiday.
Wong said he would also like to see a stronger message about vaccinations coming from government leaders.
Canadian Pediatric Society outlines steps to conserve ‘essential supplies’ amid drug shortages
“Right now, the politicians don’t really seem to be getting that message across, that flu shots and COVID shots can help reduce the burden on our health care system.,, I think as a leader in our province, one has to lead by example lead, and I don’t really see that right now and that’s disappointing from our point of view as pediatricians,” Wong said.
A statement from AHS to Global News on Friday said the redeployment of staff is temporary.
“We understand that this temporary pause in respite services can be distressing and difficult for our customers and families. We will do our best to resume this important service as soon as possible. These are extraordinary times, and we thank Albertans in advance for their support and understanding.”
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