Nfld. & Labrador

N.L. pediatric intensive-care unit patient diverted to Halifax, says health authority

A patient was diverted from the pediatric intensive-care unit at the Janeway hospital in St. John’s to the IWK Health Centre in Halifax at some point this fall, said Eastern Health in a statement.

Unit was on diversion for 22 days during October and November, says Eastern Health

A patient was diverted from Newfoundland and Labrador's pediatric intensive-care unit to the IWK Health Centre in Halifax at some point during October or November, said Eastern Health on Monday. (Paul Daly/CBC)

A patient was diverted from the pediatric intensive-care unit at the Janeway hospital in St. John's to the IWK Health Centre in Halifax at some point this fall, CBC News has learned.

In a statement Monday, an Eastern Health spokesperson said the patient was not sent to Halifax during the most recent diversion, which took place Dec. 1-6. CBC News has asked the regional health authority to confirm when the patient was diverted and whether they are now back in Newfoundland and Labrador.

The PICU, which serves critically ill children in Newfoundland and Labrador, was placed on diversion at least three times during October and November, for a total of 22 days, said the spokesperson.

Eastern Health has not previously confirmed that a patient was diverted to Halifax this fall, though it has said diversion is standard protocol for when a health-care facility reaches capacity.

The regional health authority has previously said when a patient needs to be diverted, staff will assist family members with travel arrangements, but it isn't clear what assistance the patient's family received in this instance.

The Janeway hospital serves children and youth from infancy to 18 years old.

Ongoing problems

CBC News has previously reported that staffing issues have plagued the unit, with staff working multiple 24-hour shifts, including six from Sept. 27 to Oct. 27. 

Eastern Health said four staff with PICU experience were added in October and November to help meet demand in the unit, which has a regular capacity of four beds and surge capacity of six beds.

"Eastern Health continues to recruit and train staff to provide this highly specialized care," said the statement.

In 2019, the regional health authority announced the creation of a floater team of specially trained staff to meet fluctuating demand for the unit. 

In October, Health Minister John Haggie pointed to the challenges of finding staff with the specialized skill sets necessary to work in the unit as part of the reason for the capacity issues. CBC News has asked the Health Department for comment.

Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

With files from Terry Roberts

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