CHEO says it’s still committed to virtual care, but is suspending virtual emergency department visits for at least 90 days to tackle increased in-person demand and to reduce wait times.
The move allows the children’s hospital to reassign staff from virtual care to in-person care for kids and families coming to emergency, CHEO said in a release Wednesday.
CHEO has seen “an extraordinary demand” for in-person urgent care, starting with record summer months.
In October, the emergency department saw more than 7,100 children and youth in person, up 68 per cent from October 2020 and more than in a typical month during peak viral season, typically December to April.
Responding to the surge is a community effort, CHEO said.
“We are grateful for the important work being done by family doctors, health providers and pediatricians in the community to support the region’s kids and families throughout this pandemic,” chief of staff and chief medical officer Lindy Samson said.
“CHEO will continue to work with and support our community partners, so they are able to provide timely, safe and accessible care to the children, youth and families they see in their practices.”
The hospital — the first pediatric health centre in Canada offering virtual emergency care — said it knew how valuable virtual care was for kids and families. CHEO will keep offering that option for many outpatient clinics, follow-ups and group therapy and “looks forward” to resuming virtual emergency department visits, the hospital said.
Families can visit the where to go page on CHEO’s website for alternatives to the emergency department, including COVID-19 care clinics for children and youth with new respiratory illness symptoms.