Red Cross staff to help CHEO get through respiratory virus season


Ottawa’s children’s hospital says it will accept staffing help from the Canadian Red Cross as it continues to face a surge in young patients suffering from respiratory viruses.

CHEO has been over capacity for weeks and has responded by opening a second pediatric ICU and asking nearby adult hospitals to accept teenage patients.

In an email, Tammy DiGiovanni, senior vice-president and chief nursing executive at CHEO, said the hospital has asked for “extra support” from organizations across the region to ensure children get necessary care through the flu, RSV and COVID-19 seasons.

The partnership with the Canadian Red Cross will provide the hospital a small team of staff to support its own clinical teams, DiGiovanni said.

“This will allow some of our deployed staff to get back to their regular roles,” she said.

The entrance to a hospital at dusk.
CHEO is just one of several hospitals in Canada that are dealing with a wave of young patients suffering from respiratory viruses. (Gabriel Le Marquand Perreault/Radio-Canada)

The Red Cross said in an email it would provide “small teams of personnel to support hospital staff and allow them to focus on clinical tasks.”

Although the Red Cross did not have a firm start date for the workers, CHEO said they would be on the job as early as next week.

Similar story elsewhere

The partnership is the latest example of pediatric hospitals across the country taking measures to maintain services as patient levels surge — including the closure of a pediatric hospice in Calgary and the cancellation of surgeries at Newfoundland and Labrador’s children’s hospital.

Calgary’s Rotary Flames House has paused its services and discharged all of its respite patients so that staff can be redeployed to Alberta Children’s Hospital.

The hospice provides palliative, respite and end-of-life care for children and grief support for parents. Its staff have been dispatched to the children’s hospital due to a surge in respiratory viruses. 

The Janeway Children’s Health and Rehabilitation Centre in St. John’s, meanwhile, was forced to cancel some routine surgeries and appointments due to a wave of sick children.

The situation has led some of Canada’s top doctors to call on provincial governments to bring back mask mandates.

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