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The Cavalier family pose in their living room for a family photo. From left to right are Emily, her sons Liam and Kaleb, and husband Josh. Lying in front of them is the family's tan and black large dog, Sydney
The Cavalier family knows first-hand the anxiety and suffering that surgical delays are causing young patients and their families. That’s why they’re happy to see MCH support the Make Kids Count campaign, aimed at encouraging the province to make significant investments in children’s health. From left to right: Amy, Liam, Kaleb and Josh with their dog Sydney.
May 5, 2022

Over 1,300 HHS pediatric patients currently sidelined by surgery/procedure delays

Recently-launched #MakeKidsCount campaign puts ball in province’s court to prioritize kids’ health

 

HAMILTON, ON – McMaster Children’s Hospital (MCH), and our colleagues at the Children’s Health Coalition (CHC) are calling on leaders and candidates of all political parties to make kids’ health across all sectors a priority by adopting the 100 Day #MakeKidsCount Commitment.

“Our kids have been waiting too long and the time for action is now,” says Bruce Squires, President of McMaster Children’s Hospital and VP Women’s and Children’s Health at Hamilton Health Sciences. “Our Children’s Health Coalition looks forward to collaborating with government to give our kids the investments they deserve and need.”

Kids have taken the brunt of the pandemic – too much has been asked of them. Children and youth have had vital health care delayed; and they have faced learning losses and experienced devastating impacts on their developmental, and physical and mental health and well-being. Critical early intervention windows are being missed.

To #MakeKidsCount, the Children’s Health Coalition wants the next government to commit to the following within the first 100 days in office:

  1. Invest $1 billion over four years in the Make Kids Count Action Plan.
  2. Convene a cross-sectoral children’s health summit with government, specialized children’s health care organizations, and health care providers to agree on principles for a long-term provincial Children’s Health Strategy.
  3. Develop and release Ontario’s first-ever Children’s Health Strategy.

Two brothers from Branchton, Ontario understand this all too well. Kaleb (16) and Liam (13) Cavalier were both born with Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy, a genetic disorder that gradually weakens muscles and leads to heart and breathing problems that worsen with age. The boys are lifelong Hamilton Health Sciences (HHS) patients, who receive care at MCH. During the pandemic, both boys underwent scoliosis spinal surgery, performed at MCH, to correct spinal curvatures that were placing increasing pressure on their organs and skeletal systems.

This life-changing surgery made it possible for the boys to continue living comfortably in their motorized chairs and enjoy all the things they love in life, from family time, to school work, to music and rooting for the Bruins. Liam’s surgery took place one year after Kaleb’s, and he was not impacted by delays. Liam’s timely surgery took 10 hours while Kaleb’s lasted 14 hours due to his worsening condition caused by delays. Kaleb also had a longer stay in the pediatric intensive care unit post-surgery due to pain management issues.

“Their health-care journeys were like night and day due to the delays Kaleb experienced,” says dad, Josh. “The team at McMaster Children’s Hospital is great but their resources are limited. Our family experienced first-hand what happens when children’s surgeries are delayed, and we share the hospital’s commitment to delivering timely, high-quality care to all of their young patients.”

Currently at MCH, some 1,300 kids are waiting for pediatric surgeries and procedures. The number of children and youth waiting longer than clinically recommended has grown by 230 per cent at MCH.

Province-wide, more than 4,200 surgeries at children’s hospitals were cancelled between March 2020 and May 2021, and more than 209,000 non-surgical appointments and procedures were cancelled over that same period.

“Barriers to care, which were already significant, have been exacerbated by the pandemic,” adds Squires. “Children and youth have had vital health care delayed, faced learning losses, and have experienced devastating impacts on their development, and physical and mental well-being due to these delays.”

A generation of children and youth is at risk of significant long-term health problems without immediate action. Every day matters in the life of a child. Long wait times, staffing shortages, and limited resources are not new barriers to timely care; these barriers to care have been exacerbated by the pandemic.

For more information on Liam and Kaleb’s story, please visit https://www.hamiltonhealthsciences.ca/share/spine-surgery-makekidscount/.

The COVID-19 pandemic has also created delays for pediatric mental health, eating disorder treatment, and developmental and rehabilitation across the province and at MCH. To view this data, please visit https://www.hamiltonhealthsciences.ca/wp-content/uploads/2022/05/MakeKidsCount_HamOntData.pdf.

To read more about #MakeKidsCount and ways to get involved please visit https://www.chcontario.ca/make-kids-count/