CHEO calls in Red Cross as it deals with surge in respiratory patients

Help will arrive at the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario next week as it continues to see “unprecedented volumes” of young patients suffering from respiratory viruses.

CHEO requested assistance from the Canadian Red Cross to support patient care during respiratory virus season, and a “small team of staff” from the Red Cross will start next week, according to CHEO Chief Nursing Executive Tammy DiGiovanni.

“This will allow some of our redeployed staff to go back to their regular roles and ensure Team CHEO can provide the safe, world-class care that our patients deserve,” DiGiovanni said in an email to CTV News Ottawa.

The children’s hospital says the Red Cross staff will be in the hospital starting next week.  A Canadian Red Cross spokesperson told CTV News Ottawa details on the deployment of staff to CHEO are still being finalized.

CHEO has been seeing a surge in patients with respiratory viruses this fall, forcing the hospital to cancel non-urgent surgeries and procedures, open a second pediatric intensive care unit and redeploy staff from surgical and medical care units.

“It has been all hands-on deck at CHEO this viral season as we have responded to unprecedented volumes due to RSV, the flu and COVID,” DiGiovanni said.

CHEO President Alex Munter said the emergency department saw 218 children on Wednesday, with 11 children waiting in the ER for a bed.  The critical care and inpatient medicine units are operating at 130 per cent occupancy.

DiGiovanni says CHEO has asked for “extra support” from organizations across the region, including the Canadian Red Cross, to ensure young patients get the care they need.

“We have partnered with several organizations including Roger Neilson House, Ottawa Public Health and local hospitals including The Ottawa Hospital, Pembroke Regional Hospital, Providence Care, Hôpital Montfort, Queensway-Carleton Hospital and Kingston Health Sciences for staff, equipment and accommodating patient transfers,” DiGiovanni said.

“We are so grateful to have the support of so many partners across the community right now and continue to remind everyone to follow public health guidance – masks in crowded indoor spaces, get vaccinated, stay home when sick and wash your hands.

“We all have a role to play in protecting our kids and supporting the dedicated health professionals who care for them.”

In a Twitter thread Sunday, CHEO said the help from Red Cross staff would allow other CHEO staff to return to their regular roles. 

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