June 26, 2020
The impacts of COVID-19 reach far across the health care sector, including Soldiers' Paediatric Eating Disorders Team and the patients they serve.
This part-time team has been very busy with higher volumes and acuity over the last few months, according to Andrea Logan, the Paediatric Nurse Practitioner associated with the team. She and her colleagues Dawn Hilliard, Counsellor, and Jennifer Fletcher, Registered Dietitian, currently serve approximately 40 active patients (up to age 18), with many more on a waiting list.
Why an increase in activity during COVID?
The team speculates that social isolation and attendant loneliness and stress have triggered some relapse in related mental health issues in some cases. They also note that parents are spending more time in the house, often working from home, and have a better chance to observe their children and identify previously covert eating issues. Finally with the advent of warmer weather, and the transition to summer clothing, weight loss is more apparent.
When concerns arise as a result, the team is there to help. While many patients can be cared for on an out-patient basis, a fair amount require admission for both mental health and medical urgencies. The team provides ongoing care and continuity in both settings and cites the outstanding cooperation and support they receive from Soldiers’ paediatricians and inpatient nursing staff, whose expertise is especially critical for in-patients. The entire family is involved in Eating Disorder Treatment, thus significant time is made available for education and counselling of patients and family members alike.
During COVID, active out-patients are supervised regularly by phone if possible, however many still require in person visits, and those on the waiting list are also monitored regularly, with provisions for expedited care, if necessary.
One challenge for the team has always been helping clients who age out of the Paediatric program to find equivalent adult care. There is no such resource in Simcoe-Muskoka, the nearest clinics being in Newmarket or Toronto.
An additional COVID-related obstacle is the fact that many post-secondary institutions will be offering their curriculum online/off-campus in September. So having located a clinic close to the college of choice for a client aging out of the Paediatric program, the team may need to scramble for alternatives when the patient decides to study from home instead.
Working so closely with patients and families over extended periods builds caring relationships, and it's clear these three professionals go the extra mile on a daily basis to support the best possible care and outcomes for their clients, even under COVID restrictions. They are passionate in advocating for more resources to ensure accessibility and continuity of care from childhood, youth and beyond.