A desperate warning from the Children’s Hospital at London Health Sciences Centre.

The hospital is asking families to play safe this summer in order to avoid any further stress on its emergency department.

As a parent of a four-year-old, mother Michelle Ashton knows all too well that accidents can happen when you least expect.

“She definitely likes to play,” said Ashton. “She’s pretty coordinated, but yes, accidents do happen.”

Ashton is hoping to avoid anything serious enough to land young Hannah in the emergency department, especially in light of an announcement from LHSC.

Michelle and Hannah Ashton - London - July 2022In a media release, Dr. Rod Lim, director of paediatric emergency care at LHSC said, “The ED [emergency department] is currently experiencing high volumes, which is causing longer than normal wait times.”

He went on to say “with summer vacation here, and kids being outside and more active, we recognize there is potential for increased injury. As much as possible, we want everyone to have a safe summer and avoid any unwanted trips to the ED.”

Children’s Hospital is just the latest of several health centres in the region to warn of delays in emergency departments. Staff shortages and burnout have been made worse by the pandemic, according to the Ontario Nurses Association (ONA).

ONA President Cathryn Hoy said many health professionals are retiring or leaving the profession, leaving many hospital positions unfilled.

“So when they actually speak out and say ‘we need you to help us, only come if needed,’ you know we’re in trouble,” explained Hoy. “They are grossly, grossly understaffed,” she added.

Children’s Hospital listed the top five current reasons for ED visits at Children’s Hospital:

  1. Injuries to the head
  2. General infection concerns
  3. Acute upper respiratory infections
  4. Injuries to the elbow/forearm
  5. Digestive/abdomen

As for Ashton, she said she understands how hard nurses and other health professionals at Children’s Hospital are working, and she’s hoping to get through the summer without needing their help.

“Just try not to go when you don’t need to, but yeah, it’s definitely concerning if you’re having to wait a long time with an injured child,” she said.