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COVID-19 and Soldiers’ Paediatric Program

Update by Dr. Michelle Gordon, Chief of Paediatrics

May 29, 2020

In mid-March, our world changed. Suddenly we were threatened by a global pandemic, and to keep our patients and ourselves safe we had to find a whole new way of delivering healthcare here at Soldiers’.

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In our outpatient paediatrics program, we had to transition the majority of our in-person visits to virtual visits practically overnight. I was so proud of our team as we worked together with resilience, creativity and resourcefulness.

Very quickly our care model shifted, and we moved all of our clinics to phone or video links with only essential visits being done in person. We continue to be as busy as ever, as we provide general paediatrics and multidisciplinary subspecialty clinics (in asthma, diabetes, neonatal follow up and more) virtually.

The response from our families has been incredible – our families are grateful for the care they are receiving and appreciate the ability to access care from home. It has been surprising to discover how much care we can deliver by phone and video link.

I do miss very much the opportunity to interact in person with my patients and their families – the virtual visits are pretty good, but they are not quite the same.

There are of course some of our patients who must still be seen in person – very little babies, our oncology patients, or the children who are very sick or very fragile. For those children we have developed safe practices with screening and personal protective equipment (PPE) for families and staff to allow those visits to be safe for all.

As we begin to ramp back up our outpatient services we are doing so with care and thought to ensure everyone’s ongoing safety.

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Our world is also different in the inpatient unit. Every patient is screened, and all staff are wearing PPE. It means that everything takes longer – we have to make sure we are wearing the right equipment to enter and exit rooms which makes even simple tasks take a bit longer.

It is harder to reassure our small patients when we are wearing masks and face shields – they can no longer see our smiling faces.

The paediatrics unit has been quiet – the social distancing measures we are taking to prevent the spread of COVID-19 also prevent the spread of other infectious diseases, which means that there are fewer children getting sick enough to be admitted to hospital.

Our Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) with our tiniest babies continues to be quite busy as does our obstetrical unit – not even COVID can stop our tiny patients from coming!

COVID has meant changes to our visiting policies on paediatrics and in the NICU. In order to keep all of our patients and families safe, each patient may have only one adult visitor stay with them for the duration of their hospital stay.

For some of our babies in the NICU, this means that generally their moms (who are breastfeeding) stay with the baby, and the dads may not be able to see their babies for many weeks while they are in our NICU.

This has been very hard, and heartbreaking. I again have been grateful to our families who have understood the drastic measures we must take to protect them and each other… and our staff have gone above and beyond to ensure families who can’t come to the hospital are connected with their children. Even our tiny preemies are learning to make zoom calls!

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COVID-19 has been an incredible challenge to our team. It has been daunting to come to a workplace that feels a bit like a war zone every day. Sometimes the fear of bringing home COVID to my husband and children has been oppressive. And all of us are grieving the loss of the world as it was.

However, in the midst of it all I have found incredible gratitude. Every day I am surrounded by a team of people who are brave and smart and compassionate and resourceful and kind. I have seen people in every program of the hospital step up in incredible ways.  This is hard but we are up for the challenge, and I am so proud to be part of the team at Soldiers’.