Assistant News Editor
Watermelons. Helium balloons. Cookies with pink icing.
While such novelties could very well describe the perfect picnic, these instead were present at the Children’s Emergency Department open house on Nov. 5.
Having closed their doors to anyone older than eighteen years of age since Apr. 4, the open house served as an invitation from the hospital to the broader community to showcase both what has been built and what currently goes on in the Children’s Emergency Department at McMaster Children’s Hospital.
Visitors were given a look into various areas of the Emergency Department, from the trauma rooms to the casting areas for broken bones. Additionally, demonstrations of IVs and cast moldings were performed for children.
The entire emergency has been tailored to meet the needs of children. Waiting and treatment areas are more spacious to accommodate family comfort, from bulky strollers to worrisome grandparents. Separated ambulances and walk-in entrances, as well as an isolated trauma bay and treatment room, serve to minimize a child’s exposure to the more gruesome aspects of medicine.
Dona Teles, Clinical Manager for the Children’s Emergency Department, stressed this design layout, saying “the point of the Children’s Emergency Department’s infrastructure was to limit the experience with needless trauma.”
Unique to the hospital is an overwhelmingly child-friendly environment. Bright colours highlight an otherwise bleak hospital exterior. Areas have been designed as to mirror the urban landscape. Interactive screens with a variety of games function as apt distractions. Together, these unique features further assist the children and families during the stressful time of a hospital emergency.
“We did not want it [the Emergency Department] to look so medicalized, with equipment right when you entire the room. We didn’t want people to be looking at it as a hospital, but as a welcoming playland,” said Teles.
But not all was gumdrops and lollipops, despite the fact that the current infrastructure and infantile atmosphere may remind some of exactly that.
Teles noted that, “The ER change was very controversial in the beginning, when we were separating the hospitals and putting them into their centres of excellence. We became the centre of excellence for children.
“It wasn’t that we were building a centre for children. It was that we were taking something away from the adult population; and in a sense we did,” said Teles.
Plans to do just that began in 2008 when Hamilton Health Sciences (HHS) introduced the “Access to Best Care” (ABC) plan, which served to ensure healthcare was coordinated to be at the highest quality possible.
To do this, the hospital planned to strengthen its centre of excellence in Pediatrics, which culminated in a pediatric Emergency Department, Pediatric Critical Care Unit, and an inpatient mental health unit.
Last summer saw the application of this plan for the Hamilton Health Sciences began construction of a new Children’s Emergency Department. The opening of the Emergency Department represented the very butt-end of nearly $650-million in investments.
Despite this, controversy swelled. Ward 14 Councillor Robert Pastua was worried that besides some people being unaware of the change, others would have to drive further to receive the same care.
Other politicians chimed in, including Flamborough Ward 15 Councillor, Judi Partridge, who went so far to say that, “The pressure on the system created by this closing appears to be ill thought out – the risk is someone may die.”
“The days of every hospital being exactly the same as the others are long gone. Modern medicine and the need to have high technologies in places means you can’t have one of everything in every place,” said Jeff Vallentin, Vice President of HHS in charge of Communications and Stakeholder Relations, in response.
While both sides boomed their voices of concern, lost in the verbal fireworks was that the switch not only altered the way in which immediate care was carried out, but implicitly refashioned the entire hospital’s method of care, from how it operates to how it delivers various services.
To this point, the 270 staff members, 102 beds, and numerous departmental changes were observed. Much of the staff and medical equipment was partitioned between other Hamiltonian hospitals such as the Juravinski Hospital, which received 185 of the staff members, or Hamilton General Hospital, which received six of the beds.
Irrespective of these changes, the explicit benefits of whether or not the move has been advantageous remains to be seen. Certainly, the youngest of the population are being cared for. But lingering questions still remain to those left behind, especially considering that the hospital is situated in a University with some 20,000 students that are not eligible for immediate care.
Perhaps in an attempt to answer the enduring concerns, or perhaps to appease the bitterness some community members may still hold, Teles boldly concluded with, “It is the best and only place we should be bringing our children to for care.”
And with an entire emergency department retrofitted for children and familial needs, from distracting games to a child-friendly environment, this may certainly be true.
Children may not want to just be brought to the hospital. Instead, they may want to stay there too.