The prime minster says he is “extremely worried” about a rise in respiratory illnesses among children as hospitals across the country report they are struggling to keep up with high volumes of patients.
Justin Trudeau is urging Canadians to get vaccinated against both COVID-19 and influenza and says officials will consider the advice of public health authorities when it comes to measures like mandatory masks.
He says it’s everyone responsibility to “step up again” to get vaccinated and keep their families and communities safe from what could also be a resurgence of COVID-19.
Children’s hospitals have seen a surge in patients, including those affected by COVID-19, flu and respiratory syncytial virus, or RSV, for which there is no vaccine.
Ottawa pediatric hospital CHEOhas asked for help from the Red Cross to take over some administrative duties so limited staff can focus on caring for patients, as staffing issues are also plaguing many hospitals.
Dr. Shazma Mithani, an emergency room doctor at both the Stollery Children’s Hospital and Royal Alexandra Hospital in Edmonton, says the temporary closure of a pediatric hospice in that city is “tragic” as staff are being diverted to a children’s hospital.
“It means that kids who are dying are not getting the palliative and comfort care that they deserve and need, and that acute care is taking priority over that,” Mithani says.
Federal Health Minister Jean-Yves Duclos has said Ottawa recently gave provinces an additional $2 billion as calls grow for both levels of government to do more to help hospitals facing unprecedented challenges.
Mithani says funding has to be targeted for children’s hospitals and could also go to staffing after-hours clinics, for example.
“It’s funding for things like increasing vaccinations, increasing staffing in pediatric centres just to off-load the emergency departments.”
She says people planning large indoor gatherings over Christmas and for New Year’s Eve should consider scaling back while schools should transition to temporary online learning if they have a large number of viral illnesses.
Mithani says health officials also need to make a concerted effort to educate the public on the importance of vaccination amid misinformation on social media.
“The most vulnerable people in our society are suffering as a result of the decisions that adults made. That’s what’s happening here, that kids are suffering from the poor decisions of adult decision-makers who can’t seem to do the right thing in order to protect our kids.”