'We are open, we are safe': Montreal Children’s Hospital urges parents to seek urgent care even after curfew

The Montreal Children’s Hospital is reassuring parents that in spite of overcrowding in Montreal hospitals, and a curfew in place, there’s no reason to avoid bringing a child to the emergency department.

“We want to let the public know regardless of COVID, regardless of the curfew, that if you’re worried about your child for any reason to please be reassured, bring your child to the emergency department,” said Dr. Laurie Plotnick, the hospital’s ER medical director.

“We are open, we are safe, we are practising strict infection control processes, taking all the measures necessary.”

Plotnick said they’ve heard from families who have expressed fear of visiting the emergency department, and she worries others are unaware of the exemptions to the curfew, which allows for parents to accompany a sick child to the hospital.

“We are providing attestation (letters) for all families who are coming and going to show they were in the emergency department,” she said.

Plotnick said the reasons for bringing a baby or child to the emergency department are the same as they were pre-pandemic, including (but not limited to) trouble breathing, not drinking, and prolonged fever. Parents can call 811 for help determining if their child’s symptoms require a visit to the emergency room. 

Doctors are also concerned by the decline in visits to the emergency department they’ve seen since the start of the pandemic, something Plotnick said is happening globally at pediatric hospitals.

While she didn’t have exact figures to compare emergency room visits before and after the curfew came into effect, “at times we are seeing less than 50 per cent of the usual number of visits.”

“We see sick children. It’s hard to parse out was it related to COVID; would they have come to the emergency department earlier?”

The Sainte-Justine Children’s Hospital also issued a plea to parents Thursday, asking them not to hesitate to seek emergency care for their child, any time of day or night.

“We want to prevent families from waiting too long to consult for urgent health issues,” said emergency chief Antonio D'Angelo.

“In children, especially younger ones, the condition can deteriorate very quickly. A few hours sometimes makes the difference. Our care team is ready to respond to demand, and in respect of health rules.”

Sainte-Justine will also be providing letters to all families who go through emergency after 8 p.m., letting police know they have a right to be outside after curfew.

PEDIATRIC HOSPITALS CARING FOR ADULTS

In December, the Montreal Children’s Hospital began to take in adult patients from McGill University Health Centre hospitals overloaded with COVID-19 patients.

The MUHC’s intensive care units had become full to the point that the hospital network had to come up with creative solutions to acquire more beds.

The Montreal Children’s Hospital continues take in overflow of non-COVID adult patients, though not in the emergency department, Plotnick explained, and stressed that the strict infection-control measures are in place, and families are able to safely distance from one another, even in the waiting room.

She also confirmed some staff from the Children’s have been redeployed to adult sites at the MUHC, where healthcare workers continue to be stretched thin.

Sainte-Justine Children’s Hospital announced it too will begin receiving adult patients as of Jan. 18, “in order to help relieve the pressure on other hospitals in the health network.”

In a written statement, the hospital said it will take in patients under 40 years old with COVID-19, and patients under 30 years old requiring trauma care. It has reserved six beds in its intensive care unit for adult patients requiring acute care.

The hospital already treats mothers and 17-year-old patients.

“This new measure takes place in an exceptional context which justifies exceptional measures,” the statement read.  

- With files from CTV News Montreal's Billy Shields. Watch the video above for CTV's full television report.

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