OTTAWA -- CHEO is suspending virtual visits to its Emergency Department this winter to reassign staff to providing in-person care at the children's hospital.

CHEO says to keep up with the increased demand for in-person services and reduce the department's wait times, it has suspended virtual visits to the emergency department for 90 days.

"This suspension allows CHEO to reassign much-needed staff from virtual care to providing in-person support to kids and families who are coming to our Emergency Department," said CHEO in a statement.

Staff at the emergency department cared for more than 7,100 children and youth in-person in October, and another 6,682 patients in November.

"CHEO has seen an extraordinary demand for in-person urgent care services, starting with record months in the summer," said the children's hospital on Wednesday.

Over the last three months, visits to the CHEO emergency department have been at levels normally seen at the peak of the viral season through the winter.

In May 2020, CHEO became Canada's first pediatric hospital to offer virtual appointments with a pediatric emergency physician, eliminating the need for families to go to the emergency department for non-medical-life-threatening care.

CHEO says there are alternatives to the emergency department if you need care for your child, including visiting your primary-care provider, a walk-in clinic or a CHEO care clinic.

A new east Ottawa Kids COVID-19 Care Clinic opened on Innes Road in Orleans this fall, providing care for children and youth with acute illnesses, which include a fever, cough or runny nose.