McMaster Children’s Hospital reduces surgeries after reaching maximum capacity

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The hospital has taken measures to mitigate the surge of viral infections and its impact on hospital capacity, including reducing surgeries by one-third and transferring teens to adult hospitals 

A combination of COVID-19, flu and an unprecedented rise of respiratory syncytial virus cases, has caused the McMaster Children’s Hospital to nearly reach a 135 per cent in-patient occupancy.  

In a media release on Nov. 1, Hamilton Health Sciences outlined the measures they were taking to handle the surge in hospital occupancy, including an emphasis on virtual care appointments to reduce unnecessary emergency department visits and working with regional hospital partners to optimize pediatric capacity in the region. 

The most notable measure was the hospital’s decision to reduce the number of surgeries requiring hospital admission to five per week, or one per day. Instead, the hospital will focus on surgeries that do not require hospital admission, citing the lack of inpatient bed availability. These changes took effect on Nov. 4 and are expected to last at least four weeks, according to a memo obtained by Global News. 

“These actions – including the decision to make further reductions in pediatric surgical activity – are only being taken because of the extraordinary pressure at [McMaster Children’s Hospital] and across the healthcare system,” said the media release.

These actions – including the decision to make further reductions in pediatric surgical activity – are only being taken because of the extraordinary pressure at [McMaster Children’s Hospital] and across the healthcare system.

Media Release from McMaster Children's Hospital

Additionally, the hospital plans to consider transferring a greater number of adolescent patients out of the children’s hospital and into other HHS sites, if deemed medically appropriate, and to consider transferring children to other hospitals in the general region. This measure follows a province-wide recommendation from Ontario's critical care COVID-19 command centre for adult hospitals to accept children 14 and older from pediatric hospitals that need intensive care. 

The unprecedented volume of hospital patients is being felt throughout the province. The Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto also might start transferring a small number of adolescents 14 and older, according to a statement obtained by The Globe and Mail.  

A media briefing by the Children's Hospital of Eastern Ontario in Ottawa discussed postponing some non-urgent surgeries, expanding staffing and clinic hours and hiring more staff to address the surges. Dr. Mona Jabbour, Interim Chief of Pediatrics at CHEO, attributed reduced immunity to RSV and the flu as reasons for increased surges. 

“Because we did not see these viruses in the last few years, we’re seeing them all coming together to older children with reduced immunity. We’re seeing babies, toddlers, younger and older children getting sick. It’s all happening at the same time,” said Jabbour in the media briefing. 

Because we did not see these viruses in the last few years, we’re seeing them all coming together to older children with reduced immunity. We’re seeing babies, toddlers, younger and older children getting sick. It’s all happening at the same time.

Mona Jabbour, Interim Chief of Pediatrics at CHEO, in a Media Briefing

Hamilton Health Sciences urges residents to get their flu shots and up-to-date COVID vaccines and boosters to reduce the current surges in pediatric and adult hospitals. 

With a more intense resurgence of the flu predicted to hit Canada this flu season, the Student Wellness Centre also recommends students to take their flu shot this flu season. 

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