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'It's going to be bumpy': CHEO preparing for the fall respiratory virus season


CHEO is preparing for a bumpy respiratory virus season in Ottawa, as COVID-19 and other respiratory viruses continue to circulate in the community.

Ottawa Public Health says wastewater surveillance shows COVID-19 levels are "very high" in Ottawa this week, while RSV levels are "moderate."

Last fall, the children's hospital was forced to cancel some surgeries and procedures, open a second pediatric intensive care unit, redeploy staff from surgical and medical care units and call in the Canadian Red Cross due to a spike in respiratory virus cases. This fall, CHEO says it is better prepared for the respiratory virus season.

"The health system is much more resilient this fall than we were at this time last year," Tammy DeGiovanni, senior vice-president of clinical services and chief nurse executive, told Newstalk 580 CFRA's Ottawa Now with Kristy Cameron.

"We know it's going to be bumpy with the season ahead, but we're much stronger than we were at this time last year."

CHEO is currently seeing over 200 children a day in the emergency department, and is dealing with staffing shortages like most health care institutions in Ontario. 

However, DeGiovanni says CHEO has undertaken a number of initiatives to prepare for the upcoming respiratory virus season.

"We've had an expansion in our critical care unit, so we have additional critical care beds, and we've had investments in our emergency department as well," DeGiovanni said Thursday afternoon.

"We've been able to see more kids through emergency, as well as have urgent care centres set up."

In July, the Ontario government announced an investment of $330 million a year into pediatric health services to connect children and youth to care closer to home. 

DeGiovanni says as RSV and COVID circulating in the community drives some of the viral activity in Ottawa, it will be important to roll up your sleeve this fall to get the COVID-19 booster shot and influenza shot.

"That's another thing in our tool belt this year I think we should be taking advantage of," DeGiovanni said, noting the flu shot and COVID booster are "very good matches" for the viruses circulating. Top Stories

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