Ontario currently over capacity with pediatric ICU beds, new data shows

By Richard Southern

New data shows that Ontario is over capacity with pediatric ICU beds, with the number of children receiving care exceeding the number of available units.

There are 122 children in pediatric ICUs as of Wednesday, up from 111 the day before, Critical Care Services Ontario’s daily census shows. Only five children in ICUs have COVID-19. The province has a total of 112 intensive care beds for children.

The health minister’s office tells CityNews that Ontario Health has directed all pediatric hospitals to “have a surge plan in place.”

“All Ontario hospitals have also been directed to use adult hospital capacity to support pediatric surges,” the ministry of health’s statement reads, in part. “The minister has spoken to the pediatric hospital CEOs recently and offered the government’s full support to get through this challenging time.”

Pediatric hospitals have been inundated with sick patients for weeks.

Last week, Ontario Health directed general hospitals to accept children 14 and older who need critical care to ease the burden on pediatric facilities. Children’s hospitals have said most kids in intensive care are five years old and younger.


“All Ontario hospitals have also been directed to use adult hospital capacity to support pediatric surges,” Ontario’s health minister tells CityNews.

“We are taking a team Ontario approach, as we have throughout the entire pandemic, and have increased hospital capacity across the board by adding over 3,500 new critical care, acute and post-acute hospital beds.”

The health minister says the government is aware that emergency department volumes have increased yearly.

“We are not okay with the status quo. That is why we have invested in human health resources, freed up beds across the province and expanded 911 models of care to address wait times as demand rises heading into the fall and winter season.”

Children's Advil and Tylenol shortage

A photo of a young girl holding Children’s Advil. Unprecedented demand is behind the shortage of children’s pain and fever medications. Photo: Hip2Save.

There have been an average of 1,414 children aged four and under visiting emergency departments over the last week in the province, compared to the historical seven-day average of 560 children. For those aged five to 17, there have been, on average, 1,210 visits to the emergency department over the last week compared with a historical average of 325 visits.

CityNews reported in October that unprecedented demand has been behind the shortage of children’s pain and fever medications across Canada, such as Advil and Tylenol. The Ontario Pharmacists Association (OPA) said that demand for liquid Tylenol and Advil skyrocketed over the summer due to the unexpected circulation of viruses.

Federal health minister Jean-Yves Duclos said last month that more children are getting sick, which has worsened due to COVID-19. Despite Health Canada’s efforts, government officials say the children’s pain medication shortage could last until December.

The new pediatric data comes after a leaked report showed the grim state of the healthcare system, with provincial doctors warning the system will collapse if action isn’t taken.

The report suggests 90 per cent of patients waited up to 12 hours in an emergency room in September — a 17 per cent increase compared to the same month last year. Once the patients were admitted, 90 per cent of them waited up to 45 hours to complete their visit — up 40.5 per cent compared to last year.

With files from Liam Casey of The Canadian Press

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