Virtual pediatric ER consult program launches in Northwest

Children visiting emergency departments in small and rural hospitals in Northwestern Ontario now have access to pediatricians through a virtual ER consult service.

Emergency department doctors are able to utilize the Regional Paediatric Response program which started on Nov. 21. The program will allow medical staff to conduct virtual consultations between the 12 small and rural hospitals within the northwest region from Kenora to Marathon for ER pediatric consultations.

Dr. Sarah Newbery, a physician with the Marathon Family Health Team, said the new program essentially brings the pediatrician into the room to see the child by video conference.

Newbery said in the past consultations only happened by phone.

"If we have a sick child in ER, we call [critical care services at the Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences Centre] and they would connect us to pediatrician on call," she said.

Newbery said the new system builds in the video assessment and some additional layers of support.

“The pediatrician and nurse will be able to conduct an assessment, make decisions and suggestions about early interventions to the regional physician and nursing staff while awaiting transfer to Thunder Bay Regional,” she said.

Newbery said it’s likely the service will get more use through the winter season when kids can be sick and less through the other seasons.

Sue LeBeau, the president and CEO of the Red Lake Margaret Cochenour Memorial Hospital, said this program will be a support to nurses and physicians, and most importantly to patients and their families.

“Pediatrics is a specialty in and of itself as you know and even though our physicians and nurses are experts in many things and generalists in many things, when things go sideways with pediatrics, it can go fast,” she said. “To have the support of a network to be able to provide advice, care, direction will be something that will alleviate stress and will help with patient disposition, diagnosis, treatment plans and so forth.”

LeBeau said the nearest pediatrician to Red Lake is over 200 kilometres away.

“I think this is just another way that the Northwest care teams can show collaboration and support for our patients. And so, we’re grateful for this initiative and hope that our patients and families will be able to benefit from it as needed,” she said.

Eric Shih, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Thunder Bay Source