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July 21, 2023

Province’s $330 million investment in kids’ health will help MCH free up hospital beds

Advocacy work led by a coalition of children’s hospitals, including Hamilton Health Sciences (HHS)’ McMaster Children’s Hospital (MCH), has resulted in an investment of $330 million each year by the Ontario government to expand children’s health care across the province.

“Our teams will now have access to expanded resources to enhance what they do best: provide expert care and help young people flourish.” — MCH President Bruce Squires

“As a full-service children’s care provider, our hospital takes a whole-child approach to specialized treatment and service delivery,” says MCH President Bruce Squires. “We recognize and appreciate that these government investments span the spectrum of young people’s health and well-being, supporting acute, surgery, developmental, rehabilitation, and mental health.”

This historic investment was the direct result of the Make Kids Count campaign, launched by the Children’s Health Coalition in the weeks leading up to the June 2022 provincial election to encourage significant investment in children’s health recovery.

Made-at-HHS solution

Hamilton Health Sciences will dedicate a portion of funding to its Same Day Overnight (SDO) unit at MCH. The SDO unit is for patients who have surgery, stay overnight for monitoring and return home early the next morning to recover.

The new Same Day Overnight unit should minimize risks of surgeries being postponed.

“SDO patients require overnight care, but don’t need a full hospital admission,” says Caroline Dunnett, director of perioperative support services for HHS. Typical reasons for a patient needing an SDO bed might include pain management or monitoring underlying health issues.

SDO is an established program at our Hamilton General Hospital and Juravinski Hospital sites, which both serve adult patients. An SDO unit opened at MCH in the spring, with six beds. The new provincial funding will allow MCH to continue to provide this important care to our pediatric patients, says Dunnett.

In the past, children needing to be monitored overnight were admitted to hospital, where the discharge process can take longer. This, in turn, slowed down the process for admitting patients needing beds for longer stays.  “Unfortunately, a child’s surgery could have been postponed if there was not an admitted bed available,” says Dunnett. The new SDO should minimize risks of surgeries being postponed.

“It’s really about providing the right level of care to each patient,” says Dunnett, adding that SDO patients are typically discharged early in the morning, around 7 a.m. “Our SDO unit gets kids home to their families, where they can recover best.”

Make Kids Count Campaign

The Children’s Health Coalition is a collective of children’s health organizations across the province, including MCH. Other partners are the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario (CHEO), Children’s Hospital – London Health Sciences Centre, Children’s Mental Health Ontario, Empowered Kids Ontario, Holland Bloorview Kids Rehabilitation Hospital, Kids Health Alliance and Toronto SickKids.

The coalition focused on how the pandemic has negatively impacted children’s health and exacerbated pressures in the children’s health care system and called on the newly elected provincial to make significant, immediate investments in children’s health.

Children across Ontario have been waiting longer than adults for critical health care services. In fact, close to two-thirds of patients at Ontario’s children’s hospitals had already passed the clinically recommended wait time for their surgery.

$330 million investment

The July 19 funding announcement will allow children’s hospitals and community-based providers across the province to expand services and reduce wait times for essential children’s health care services, including surgeries, procedures, diagnostic imaging, mental health treatment, and child development and rehabilitation. This will allow providers to run more operating rooms, open more beds, expand clinics, hire more staff, and, perhaps most importantly, deliver more innovative programs in partnership.

The announcement is a turning point for the hundreds of thousands of children across Ontario waiting for care. This expansion of children’s health care is a critical step towards right-sizing the pediatric health system to meet the needs of Ontario’s almost three million children and their families. Not only will this lead to better access to the right care at the right time and place, but it will also prevent further complications and challenges down the road, leading to better outcomes for an entire generation.