With ‘high number of sick kids,’ children’s hospital in Hamilton urges masking


Published December 6, 2022 at 7:50 pm

The province is fully funding six intensive care unit beds at beleaguered McMaster Children’s Hospital in Hamilton, although an announcement today did not mention staffing in any way.

The world-renowned MCH, which is part of the Hamilton Health Sciences hospital network, has had occupancy levels in the range of 130 to 140 per cent — and reportedly as high as 154 — in the past few weeks. The surge stems from infections of respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), as well as the flu and COVID-19. In the course of a funding annoucement, HHS also asked all local residents to wear a mask indoors to help slow viral spread.

“We need your help,” read a Twitter thread from HHS. “Everyone, including kids: please wear a mask in crowded indoor spaces (including school), stay home when sick, wash your hands often, and get all vaccines you’re eligible for, including COVID-19 and flu.”

The largest school board in Hamilton is introducing a temporary masking requirement, with exemptions, that starts on Monday (Dec. 12). That same day, HHS is also opening a flu, COVID and cold clinic for children at MCH.

Most children get infected by RSV before the age of two. But it can cause severe infection in infants, especially those born prematurely. Older adults, people with heart and lung disease and those who are immunocompromised are also particularly vulnerable.

Permanent funding for those half-dozen beds at MCH was confirmed after Health Minister Sylvia Jones, the point person on health care for Premier Doug Ford’s PC Party of Ontario government, visited MCH on Monday.

“The provincial government confirmed permanent funding for two Level-3 intensive care unit beds, and four Level-2 ICU beds that are currently in operation,” HHS stated. “HHS welcomes this support and the government’s commitment to continued dialogue about the additional, much needed investments in care at MCH.”

On Nov. 29, the non-partisan Financial Accountability Office said the province, under the Ford-led PCs, spent $859 million less than budgeted on health care over the first half of the fiscal year (April 1 to Sept. 30).

The Twitter post that Jones made about the visit to MCH received over five times more replies than likes. Most of the replies were critical of the Ford government’s health-care management.

Within the last news cycle, the Ontario Nurses’ Association has also accused of HHS of engaging in “dangerous” practices by hiring operating room assistants. The hospital network has responded by saying it has not eliminated any operating room nurse positions.

In the meantime, HHS is reiterating how Hamilton residents can individually contribute to limiting viral spread.

  • Wear a mask in crowded indoor spaces, including school
  • Stay home when sick
  • Wash your hands, frequently
  • Get all vaccines you are eligible for, including COVID-19 and flu

The hospital network also detailed previous steps that have been taken to improve care at MCH. According to HHS, those include:

  • Opening more inpatient beds
  • Supporting pediatric patients who require surgery or critical care in adult settings where medically appropriate
  • Temporarily reducing surgical activity
  • Asking for staff from across HHS with pediatric experience to support MCH
  • Expanding physician coverage on pediatric units and the ED
  • Offering virtual and remote care options
  • Sending patients to regional hospitals with pediatric wards/beds
  • Supporting patients to attend the HHS Urgent Care Centre (UCC) instead of the MCH emergency department. The UCC at 690 Main St. is open to all ages and can support children and youth with less acute symptoms related to colds and influenza-like illnesses and other minor conditions/injuries.

— with files from Anthony Urcioli

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