As her 11-month-old son’s fever approached the 40 C mark, Sonu Maan followed their pediatrician’s advice and took him to Toronto’s SickKids emergency room.
Maan said that although Kiesh’s cough, runny nose and fever got worse, it probably did not warrant hospital attention. She would much rather walk the half block to her doctor’s clinic to make her think he was not suffering from anything serious.
But even after Kiesh tested negative for COVID-19 — and continued to go to daycare — Maan said his pediatrician refused to examine him personally and recommended her over the phone to take him to SickKids.
“It was really shocking to me that his doctor would not see him,” Mann said.
“At least for the younger kids who can’t really talk or communicate what they’re going through, it’s really important to get a medical examination.”
She and Kiesh waited five hours in the busy emergency room one evening in July, and were then told they would have to wait at least five more hours before a doctor would be available, Maan said. Kl. 1 she called up and stopped home.
“I probably would not take him back to the emergency room,” she said. “I felt it made him more uncomfortable.”
But months later, she and her son still face the same barriers, Maan said.
Kiesh is slowly improving but still has long-lasting symptoms and has not yet been examined by a doctor, his mother said. She has been told by her pediatrician that until her son is completely symptom-free, he cannot come to the clinic, even for a routine wellness check and vaccinations.
Her experience is shared by parents in the Toronto area.
Last month, CBC News reported that Michelle Sadowski could not have her son Avery examined by her pediatrician. She took him to St. Joseph’s Just for Kids Clinic, where he was diagnosed with a serious ear infection.
Roxana Bakhshian took her 18-month-old daughter Elodie to SickKids last month. She had been told by Elody’s pediatrician that the emergency room was the best solution if her child had symptoms that could indicate she had COVID-19. After a seven-hour wait in the lobby, Elodie was diagnosed with an ear infection and given antibiotics.
“I should not have to take my daughter to the hospital to get a simple checkup. Something has to give somewhere,” Bakhshian said.
SickKids registers the busiest August this year
The Ministry of Health said it has since July urged all doctors to resume seeing both children and adults in person.
Although August is usually SickKid’s emergency department’s quietest month, so far this year it is the busiest with close to 6,000 patients – 40 percent more than the same month last year and 15 percent more than in 2019, said division manager Dr. Jason Fischer.
The hospital has also noticed an increase in patients with less severe or “low-grade” diseases.
Fischer said it is because patients have less access to community medical care or think they have limited options.
Asked what he would say to doctors who hesitated to see patients in their offices, Fischer said: “We know there are plenty of family and pediatricians who have made the adjustment to see these patients in person. I think “There is a lot we can learn from these people.”
“If a child has a dedicated primary care physician, we encourage parents to call the parent first to discuss the health issue and navigate to the next step,” she said.
The clinic is supposed to be a back-up for when GPs are unavailable or a child’s symptoms are urgent but not an emergency, Stranges said.
Nikki Bergen took her sick toddler Gabrielle to St. Joseph’s a few weeks ago following instruction from her pediatrician, who would not examine her personally, even after a negative COVID-19 test. Bergen said the hospital was busy with other worried parents who had “nowhere else to go” and tired staff who seemed to be working non-stop.
“I’m really grateful for our health care system,” Bergen said. “But to have a baby in 2018 and then again in the pandemic, the care is different straight up. It has to be different, I understand that, but I think we have to work on improving it so there are fewer people falling through. the cracks. “
The Ontario Medical Association’s pediatrician department said it encourages pediatricians to see patients in person and has given suggestions on how this can be done safely. Ultimately, it is up to the individual clinics to decide if this is possible.
“As the vaccination rate rises among children, physicians will gradually return to personal care, while continuing to provide virtual care when appropriate,” the pediatricians said.
Pediatricians protect vulnerable children
Oakville pediatrician Sadhana Balakrishnan, who also works at Scarborough General Hospital, said she and her colleagues balance the safety of vulnerable patients with the needs of those experiencing what may be COVID-19 symptoms.
Pediatricians are experiencing increased demand as the cold and flu season appears to have begun earlier than usual and parents are on high alert for respiratory illnesses, she said.
However, Balakrishnan said she manages to see children with fever, cough or gastrointestinal symptoms who have tested negative for COVID-19 by scheduling their appointments late in the day so they do not spend time in the waiting room.
She said that if a child is not seriously uncomfortable but needs a doctor, parents should first consider going to an emergency room or clinic. But even with these alternatives, Balakrishnan said she is still concerned about the consequences of patients not routinely seeing their family doctor.
“We will potentially see the fallout from delayed access to pandemic care in the coming years for both adults and children,” Balakrishnan said.
“I think we’ll have to take stock of what’s missing.”