Winnipeg Children’s Hospital seeing ‘unprecedented’ number of patients

The Winnipeg Children’s Hospital is seeing an “unprecedented” number of patients coming to the emergency department for this time of year, according to the section head of pediatric medicine at the facility.

In a news conference on Tuesday, Dr. Elisabete Doyle said that on Monday 182 patients came to the HSC Winnipeg Children’s Hospital emergency department, with 16 of these patients being admitted to hospital.

“Most pediatric patients are coming in, they’re being treated and they’re leaving,” she said.

Doyle explained that the reason for the high traffic at children’s emergency has to do with the viruses spreading throughout the community. She noted the hospital is seeing some COVID-19, but the main issues are RSV and influenza A.

“Many children are testing positive for more than one of these viruses, and roughly half of all the patients arriving in children’s ED over the past couple of weeks are experiencing influenza-like symptoms,” she said.

Doyle said that in the first three weeks of November there’s been three times the number of patients with influenza at the hospital compared to pre-pandemic numbers in November of 2019.

On Monday, there were 91 patients that came to the emergency department with influenza-like symptoms.

In terms of RSV, Doyle said 34 patients have been hospitalized in November — 22 were in the last week. She noted that others were treated on an outpatient basis.

“The majority of those kids with RSV that do become hospitalized are those who are under the age of three. We do have three RSV patients admitted to the ICU,” she said.

Doyle said the Tylenol shortage has posed some challenges for patients and families because these illnesses are viral and can cause a fever; however, she’s optimistic the shortage will soon be over.

In the meantime, Doyle reminded families that common cold and flu symptoms can be safely managed at home with things such as rest, fluids and wearing light clothing.

“Fever in itself is not dangerous. It’s the body’s natural response to infection and it doesn’t typically require treatment,” she said.

“The height of the fever is also not correlated with the severity of illness.”

To mitigate the spread of viruses, Doyle said people should get vaccinated, stay home when they’re sick, wash their hands regularly, consider wearing a mask when in large crowds, not share drinks and towels, clean high-touch surfaces, and sneeze or cough into your elbow.

As of Tuesday morning, there were eight patients in the pediatric ICU, which has a pre-pandemic baseline of nine staffed beds. The neonatal ICU was caring for 50 patients on Tuesday morning, with a normal baseline capacity of 50.

Parents looking to care for their kids at home are struggling to get the medications they need. As Winnipeg pharmacies are struggling to fill shelves with children’s cold and flu medication.

Finding the short supply is a tall order for Monique Sanchez, the pharmacy manager with Northway Pharmacy Seven Oaks.

“The supply is intermittently coming in here, so there are some days that we could be ordering and then we would be getting nothing for like a week or so,” Sanchez said. “Then sometimes, by chance, you see something from the wholesaler’s website and you’re able to order a couple, then we just snag it.”

She is asking people to ask for help when modifying adult medications, get the flu shot, and be patient with pharmacists.

“We do have a lot of work and it’s been more stressful because it’s also heartbreaking to send someone out of the pharmacy without the medication that they wanted,” Sanchez said.

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