Newspaper article The Canadian Press

ERs in Pediatric Hospitals Struggle under Big Non-Urgent Caseload

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

ERs in Pediatric Hospitals Struggle under Big Non-Urgent Caseload

Article excerpt

Pediatric hospitals try to educate on what is ER-worthy

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TORONTO - Every emergency department doctor who treats children has probably had conversations that started with: "I'm pretty sure he's fine, but..." or "I know I shouldn't be here, but..."

A tally done by the Children's Hospital of Eastern Ontario found that roughly 45 per cent of the 72,500 kids who were seen in the emergency room in the last fiscal year had health problems that were of "low acuity." That means they were not urgent or severe.

Many of those children could have -- and should have -- been cared for by family doctors or at walk-in clinics, says Dr. Ken Farion, an emergency medicine physician.

But anxious parents often flood hospital ERs wanting reassurances that their children are really OK and are going to be fine.

The Ottawa-based hospital is trying to educate parents on the appropriate use of the emergency department, so all children get timely care and the sickest get the urgent medical resources they need.

"Where five or six years ago we would have seen about a third of our patients would have been lower acuity, we're now seeing 45 per cent," Farion says.

"We need families to make a different choice to protect this resource for the children who clearly need to be here."

CHEO is launching an effort to help parents make decisions that are sometimes not at all clear cut. After young patients get treated, the medical staff will discuss with their parents whether the illness required emergency department care. They will also give parents a brochure designed to help make the right choice next time.

It includes some guidelines:

-- Fever in a normally healthy child who has been vaccinated and who appears playful when the temperature is brought down by drugs can be seen by a family doctor. Fever in an infant (under three months) or in a child who appears very sleepy and hard to wake should lead to the ER.

-- Minor head injuries with no loss of consciousness, confusion or vomiting can be seen by a family doctor or at a walk-in clinic. Head injuries involving loss of consciousness, confusion and repeated vomiting, or which require stitches, should be seen in the emergency department. …

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