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Opposition calls for solutions to maxed capacity at N.L. pediatric ICU

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The pediatric intensive care unit at the Janeway Children's Hospital was last placed under a diversion protocol in 2019. (Bruce Tilley/CBC - image credit)
The pediatric intensive care unit at the Janeway Children's Hospital was last placed under a diversion protocol in 2019. (Bruce Tilley/CBC - image credit)
Bruce Tilley/CBC
Bruce Tilley/CBC

Opposition leader David Brazil called on government to address capacity issues in Newfoundland and Labrador's pediatric intensive care unit during question period in the House of Assembly on Tuesday.

As of Tuesday, the PICU at the Janeway Children's Hospital in St. John's was still under diversion protocol, meaning any critically-ill children in Newfoundland and Labrador would need to be sent to Halifax for treatment.

When asked about the situation during question period, Health Minister John Haggie said based on information from Eastern Health, he expected the situation to be resolved shortly.

"Obviously, things like this are of concern," Haggie said. "However, this is prudent planning by Eastern Health."

In a statement on Tuesday, a spokesperson for Eastern Health said diversion is standard procedure when a health facility reaches full capacity, and last happened at the PICU in St. John's in 2019.

According to the statement from Eastern Health, the PICU has a normal capacity of four beds and a surge capacity of six beds. The spokesperson said five out of six beds have been full since last week.

CBC has asked Eastern Health for an update on how many beds are occupied as of Wednesday.

In response to a question from Brazil, Premier Andrew Furey pointed to the Health Accord N.L., a 25-person task force examining critical issues in the health-care system, with the goal of creating a 10-year plan to improve health care in Newfoundland and Labrador.

Mark Quinn/CBC
Mark Quinn/CBC

Furey said that 10-year plan will also deliver solutions for pediatric patients.

"We're not running away from what we know is a broken system," Furey said. "We're trying to fix it."

Brazil said that immediate actions need to be taken, but Furey argued immediate solutions aren't the answer.

"This is a systems problem, a paradigm shift that's occurring … within health care," he said.

Speaking with reporters on Tuesday, Brazil said the PICU may need to be expanded and additional staff may need to be added to meet demand.

"We need to have this addressed immediately," Brazil said. "This can't continue where we're flying our ... young children in need and their families out of this province when they need to be here with their supports around."

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