London’s Children’s Hospital is cancelling and reducing surgeries as it grapples with an influx of patients amid a rise in respiratory illnesses across the province.

The London Health Sciences Centre (LHSC) says it made the decision late last week to reduce surgical activity at the Children’s Hospital as it “navigates a significant surge in emergent patient health care volumes.”

“This is an extremely difficult decision and one that I wish we didn’t have to make,” Nash Syed, president of the Children’s Hospital, said in a Nov. 22 news release. “The decision to reduce surgical activity is necessary to ensure our teams are able to meet critical care and emergency needs.”

Syed added that the hospital will be contacting families whose scheduled procedures will be affected and will work to reschedule surgeries in a timely manner.

LHSC says occupancy levels are at a peak and the hospital simply does not have enough resources to keep up with demand.

“Occupancy levels for inpatient beds at Children’s Hospital are currently sitting at 115 per cent, exceeding our experience at the height of the pandemic. Daily visits to the Emergency Department are 80 per cent higher than normal with wait times averaging six to eight hours,” LHSC said in the release.

LHSC says the Children’s Hospital has responded to the worsening situation by extending inpatient capacity by 117 per cent, increasing critical care capacity by 150 per cent and leveraging paediatric ambulatory clinic spaces to relieve pressure on the hospital’s emergency department.

The hospital is also transitioning children over the age of 14 to the adult Intensive Care Unit (ICU) when safe and necessary. The move follows the guidance released by the Ontario Critical Care COVID-19 Command Centre earlier this month advising hospitals to admit teenage critical care patients to adult ICUs to help free up space at children’s hospitals that are experiencing a surge in pediatric ICU patients.

LHSC says it will continue to evaluate and adjust operational decisions as the situation evolves.

children's hospital london - nov 2022

Last week, The Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto also started putting some surgical procedures on hold in an attempt to “preserve critical care capacity” amid a significant rise in patient volumes.

Many children's hospitals across Ontario have been reporting a notable increase in patients recently due to a spike of respiratory viruses, including the flu and COVID-19. They have also recently seen their intensive care beds filled to capacity.

To limit the spread of COVID-19 and other respiratory viruses, LHSC is encouraging the public to stay up-to-date with their vaccinations, stay home when sick, wash hands regularly and to wear a mask when in public, indoor settings.