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November 1, 2022

Update on pressures at Hamilton Health Sciences McMaster Children’s Hospital

Hamilton Health Science’s (HHS) acute sites continue to face ongoing pressures across all programs. They are driven by high volumes and acuity of patients visiting HHS emergency departments, and this is resulting in increasing admissions to hospital.

In addition, staffing pressures continue to strain the ability of teams across HHS to accommodate this extraordinary surge in occupancy. The ongoing challenges experienced by our teams at adult sites across our organization throughout COVID are now being felt in an escalated manner at McMaster Children’s Hospital (MCH).

Inpatient occupancy for pediatric beds at MCH is extremely high. Critical care and the emergency department 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.

As a result, there are several mitigation measures being put in place. This includes:

  • A continued emphasis on virtual care appointments, where appropriate, to support families at home and prevent unnecessary emergency department visits.
  • Adjustments to the number of daily surgical cases performed, with a concentration on “same-day home” surgeries that don’t require hospital admission, given the lack of inpatient bed availability. This may impact wait times for some surgeries. If your or your child’s surgery is impacted, you will be contacted directly by your surgeon’s office.
  • Evaluating the potential transfer of youth/adolescent patients to other HHS sites, where feasible and medically appropriate.
  • Working with regional hospital partners to ensure optimal use of pediatric capacity across the region.

These actions – including the decision to make further reductions in pediatric surgical activity – are only being taken because of the extraordinary pressure at MCH and across the healthcare system. We will reassess the surgical situation daily and restore activity as soon as we are able to do so. All involved recognize the distress that such difficult decisions cause for the patients and families were serve, as well as our staff and physicians.

We sincerely appreciate the work of all our staff and physicians to support patients and their families at this very trying time.

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.

To view our previous update on the pressures at MCH, please visit

For more information on ED waits at our sites, please visit