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McMaster Children's Hospital emergency department
November 11, 2022

Update: Pressures continue at MCH

The pressures at Hamilton Health Sciences’ (HHS) McMaster Children’s Hospital (MCH) continue to escalate, and pediatric inpatient occupancy is over 140 per cent. We are collaborating with our system partners and government to manage the current surge in pediatric patients.

Our critical care unit and emergency department (ED) are facing significant patient volumes driven by an unusually high seasonal surge in viral illnesses. This is not isolated to MCH and is being felt across the province. There are currently 53 children/youth with RSV, influenza and other viral illnesses at MCH (on October 31, there were 14 patients).

We are seeing 190-200 patients in the MCH ED per day, and ED visits have consistently been 20 per cent higher than the historical average (for October). Given the large number of admitted patients waiting in the ED for a bed, the flow of patients is very challenged and wait times in our pediatric ED are approaching 12-13 hours at times – with admitted patients often staying more than 24 hours before they can move to an inpatient bed. Our Level 3 Pediatric Critical Care Unit is regularly operating at 100 per cent or higher occupancy.

Thanks to our staff and physicians, we’ve been able to find capacity in existing patient care spaces/units and our teams are doing their best to care for all pediatric patients. Planning is underway to utilize clinic space after hours to manage the high volume of patients coming to our ED, and where medically appropriate and if required, to care for critically ill children (14+) in adult critical care units in the coming days and weeks.

As is the case throughout the province and country, we are running low on supplies such as pediatric Tylenol and Advil. However, we are continuing to meet the needs of patients in hospital who need these medications most urgently.

It’s important that everyone, including children, get a flu shot and to stay up to date with COVID vaccines and boosters. If you have symptoms of flu or COVID you should also stay home, regardless of rapid test results, to reduce spread of viruses.

Please know your healthcare options and call 9-1-1 in an emergency. Patients who seek care in our EDs will be triaged and prioritized based on the severity of their conditions.