CHEO sign

The emergency department is shown at the Children's Hospital of Eastern Ontario. (Adrian Wyld/Canadian Press)

The Children's Hospital of Eastern Ontario is asking parents of sick kids to consider other options, such as visiting their family doctor, to help ease overcrowding — and allow doctors to focus on the sickest patients. 

CHEO is issuing the appeal because its emergency department is struggling with a record-high number of visits.

Busiest months at CHEO

February and March are typically the busiest months for CHEO because of the common cold, flu and other viruses but over the past few weeks, patient visits have been 20 per cent higher than expected.

The big problem is that nearly half of the children who show up at the hospital don't require emergency care, according to CHEO.

"We're not telling anyone not to come," said Dr. Melissa Langevin, a physician in the emergency department.

"If your child has a fever for a short time, they're able to drink well and eat well ... have you thought about calling your family doctor?"

'Have you thought about calling your family doctor?'  - Dr. Melissa Langevin, CHEO

Langevin said other options include visiting a community clinic and if the family lives in Quebec, visiting a doctor or hospital there.

Quebec patients make up 30 per cent of visitors to CHEO's emergency department.

She also warned that patients visiting CHEO could wait three or four hours before they see a doctor, especially if they come during the busy evening hours.