Leading children’s health organizations across Canada are calling on the federal and provincial governments to work together to address what they are calling a longstanding crisis.
In a joint statement Children’s Healthcare Canada, the Canadian Association of Pediatric Nurses and the Canadian Pediatric Society urged provincial governments to call a first minister’s meeting to collaborate on a “restabilizing” plan.
The call to action by the three organizations followed an editorial, sent to CTV News, authored by the Quebec Pediatric Chairs that blamed the situation on “a confluence of factors.”
“Some related to neglect of the needs of children, and some related to deliberate decisions to divert health-care resources away from children,” the editorial states.
Canada’s ranking on the latest Unicef Report Card on child and youth well-being stands at 30 out of 38 countries.
The emphasis now, the group said, needs to be not just on the present-day problems playing out in overcrowded pediatric emergency rooms across the country but also on permanent solutions, since the issues pre-date the pandemic by decades and negatively affect the course of children’s lives.
“There’s such a lack in the network of beds and pediatricians and health care providers outside the university hospitals,” said Dr. Anne Monique Nuyt, chief of pediatrics at Ste-Justine Hospital.
“That’s one thing that’s been made fragile throughout the pandemic and over the years, ” she said, adding that even hospitals are short of professionals – nurses, respiratory therapists and nutritionists, for example.
“It really requires specialized special skills to take care of [children]…it’s a special job and I think our children deserve that we care for them. They’re our future,” said Nuyt.
And assessments and treatments have to be timely, said Nuyt’s counterpart at the Montreal Children’s Hospital.
“Childhood is a critical window in everybody’s life. It’s a critical time of development and anytime we’re delaying essential healthcare services it has the potential to have a lifelong impact,” said Dr. Bethany Foster.
LACK OF ACCESS TO FAMILY DOCTORS
The shortage of family doctors in certain parts of the province, notably in Montreal, has a greater impact on children who are 0-5 years than people who are older than 15, Nuyt explained.
“These are critical years for growth development milestones,” she said noting that the Quebec health ministry’s recent plan to shift the care of healthy children to GPs from pediatricians will work if they get the regular check-ups they need.
“For someone to know if a child’s health is normal, you need to see them, and on a regular basis to make sure they stay normal. That’s kind of obvious,” the pediatrician said.
Access to primary care is among the most basic priorities listed by the pediatric organizations. The other priorities include:
develop a human resources strategy with a focus on specialized skills and experience required to care for children and youth
build a child and youth health data strategy
increase home care and pediatric respite supports for children with complex medical conditions
increase capacity for early intervention and community-based mental health services-establish a list of critical medications for children in Canada