BC Children’s Hospital seeing smaller ER patient volumes than in 2022

BC Children’s Hospital is offering tips to keep wait times in the emergency room down this flu season.

The hospital says so far this year, things are looking better when it comes to the number of patients coming through the ER.

“Our volumes are not seeing the huge spike that we saw last year at this time, but we are definitely seeing an uptick of patients coming to the emergency, and hoping that we are stabilizing out to seasonal visits like we saw prior to the pandemic,” explained Christy Hay, executive director of clinical operations.

This time last year, wait times at the hospital’s ER were into the double digits at some points. Hay notes the department treated over 13,000 children and youth through the flu season between October and December 2022.

“We usually see around 48,000 to 50,000 visits a year to BC Children’s Hospital — that’s been consistent for the last few years, minus, of course, 2020, those numbers were different.

Of those cases, she notes a third could have been treated non-urgently.

Tips, supports, and going to the ER

BC Children’s Hospital is encouraging people to take steps to help protect from getting or spreading illness.

The hospital is also sharing information to help families who may be dealing with a sick child.

“So, getting your vaccines up to date, making sure that you’re doing good hand hygiene, washing your hands regularly, and staying at home if you are sick. Also, things like mild fevers and coughs and colds, are our body’s normal response to viruses when we do get a virus, so those don’t always need to come to an emergency setting,” said Hay.

Families are also being encouraged to use resources like 811 to talk to a nurse if their children are sick to “help guide them in their decision making.” Family doctors, walk-in clinics, and primary care facilities are also other options.

However, Hay notes there are situations that warrant a visit to the ER.

“We see a lot of children with fever, coughs, colds this time of year. We also always have children that have injuries of different severities, of course, kids are very active. And you know, we do definitely encourage families to seek medical care if their child is having difficulty breathing. If they are a young infant under the age of three months, for example, and have a fever, or if they’re quite sleepy, lethargic — those are some cases that definitely should be coming to the emergency department, especially for young infants that aren’t really drinking or peeing,” Hay said.

“Otherwise, the best thing families can do, of course, to keep their kids well during this time is to do those things that we call respiratory etiquette — coughing into your elbow if you need to, washing your hands regularly, keeping those vaccines up to date, getting lots of sleep, drinking, and eating healthy.”

Hay says every day in the ER is different, adding wait times also fluctuate.

“The emergency department can have wait times of zero or up to several hours, depending on the number of patients in the department at the time, what might be going on in the department if we have a lot of ill or injured children. That takes a lot of our team members to work on those kids and care for them,” she explained. “On average, our time waiting to see a physician is under three hours and our time in that department on average is around four to five hours on average.”

After the lengthy waits many experienced last year, BC Children’s has implemented some changes.

Hay adds the hospital continues to monitor patient volumes regularly to address any gaps.

-With files from OMNI News

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