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Ontario Health Minister defends handling of health-care as hospitals overwhelmed with sick kids

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Ontario Health Minister Sylvia Jones defended her government’s handling of the health-care system Thursday as hospitals around the province reported being overwhelmed by a wave of sick kids.

“I will say to those parents that I completely understand your distress, your concern, but you have a government who has your back you have a government who is supporting investments in our hospital system,” Jones said when asked by CP24 what she would say to parents waiting hours in overwhelmed emergency departments for their sick children to be seen.

“You have a government that as recently as four months ago passed a budget that had an increase of $5 billion in the health care budget alone. We are making those investments. We will continue to make those investments and I want to reassure the parents, when your children need health care in the province of Ontario, you're getting it and you will continue to get it.”

Speaking with reporters at an announcement about funding for hospitals, she said that the province has recently increased paediatric ICU capacity by 30 per cent. However she could not give a figure when asked how many children are currently in ICU in Ontario, saying that the number “continues to move back and forth.”

At this time last week, the Critical Care Services Ontario’s daily census was showing that there were more children in intensive care in the province than the number of designated pediatric ICU beds.

Jones said she has also coordinated with her federal counterpart to make sure that more pain medication for kids is coming into the country, but added that primary care doctors should be doing more to make sure kids don’t have to go to emergency departments.

“I would add one very important factor and that is we need to make sure that primary care practitioners are seeing their patients before they have to go to an emergency department or a hospital,” Jones said. “We have a robust system when all of the players are working together. And we need all those parts to be basically operating at 100 per cent.”

Paediatric intensive care units around the province have reported being overwhelmed in recent months as an early wave of influenza and RSV hits kids. While it's not clear exactly what has caused the wave of illness among children, overcapacity hospitals and had to transfer some kids to other cities for treatment and convert spaces to provide additional capacity.

Earlier this week Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Kieran Moore urged people to mask up indoors, especially around young kids if you have even mild symptoms of illness.

Local and provincial health authorities, including Toronto’s top doctor, are also urging people to get their flu shots and COVID-19 boosters to help curb the spread of infection.

A wave of infections among kids has been made worse by shortages of children’s pain medications, a problem the federal government said this week it is trying to fix by importing more of the products, though it has been short on details so far. 

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