N.L. pediatric intensive-care unit patient diverted to Halifax, says health authority

A patient was diverted from Newfoundland and Labrador’s pediatric intensive care unit to the IWK Health Center in Halifax sometime in October or November, Eastern Health said on Monday. (Paul Daly/CBC)

A patient was transferred from the pediatric intensive care unit at Janeway Hospital in St. John’s to the IWK Health Center in Halifax at some point this fall, CBC News has learned.

In a statement Monday, an Eastern Health spokesperson said the patient was not sent to Halifax during the most recent diversion, which took place Dec. 1-6. CBC News has asked the regional health authority to confirm when the patient was diverted and whether they are now back in Newfoundland and Labrador.

The PICU, which serves critically ill children in Newfoundland and Labrador, was placed on distraction at least three times in October and November, for a total of 22 days, the spokesman said.

Eastern Health has not previously confirmed a patient has been diverted to Halifax this fall, although it has said that diversion is standard protocol for when a healthcare facility reaches capacity.

The regional health authority has previously said that when a patient needs to be rerouted, staff will assist relatives with travel arrangements, but it is not clear what assistance the patient’s family has received in this case.

Janeway Hospital serves children and young people from infants to 18 years of age.

Ongoing issues

CBC News previously reported that staffing issues have plagued the unit, with staff working multiple 24-hour shifts, including six from September 27 to October 27.

Eastern Health said it added four employees with PICU experience in October and November to meet demand in the unit, which has a normal capacity of four beds and a peak capacity of six beds.

“Eastern Health continues to recruit and train staff to provide this highly specialized care,” the statement said.

In 2019, the regional health authority announced the creation of a floater team of specially trained personnel to meet the fluctuating demand for the unit.

In October, Health Secretary John Haggie pointed to the challenges of finding personnel with the specialized skills needed to work in the unit as one of the reasons for the capacity constraints. CBC News has asked the Department of Health for comment.

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