Nova Scotia

IWK program aims to boost children's care at hospitals across the Maritimes

The IWK Health Centre in Halifax is partnering with emergency departments across the Maritimes to ensure young patients receive the same treatment, no matter what hospital they visit.

IWK is using training, software to keep rural ER staff abreast of the latest treatment methods

The IWK Health Centre is now helping other hospitals offer the same kind of treatment children would get at its Halifax facility. (Craig Paisley/CBC)

Taking a child to an emergency department can be a stressful experience for a parent, but a team at the IWK Health Centre in Halifax is trying to ease some of that stress.

It's partnering with emergency departments across the Maritimes to ensure young patients receive the same treatment, no matter what hospital they visit.

"It is often really difficult in an adult emerg setting to provide care for a kid," said Dr. Shannon MacPhee, a pediatric emergency physician at the IWK.

"They are susceptible to different kinds of diseases and different kinds of injury patterns. And it's often much more difficult to assess a young child."

MacPhee is on a team that's travelling to Maritime hospitals to teach them about the Trekk computer program, which shows rural ER staff the most up to date steps to treat conditions that include croup and diabetes.

Workers at the South Shore Regional Hospital in Bridgewater are getting trained so they can treat children the same way as the IWK Health Centre would treat them. (Submitted by Eleanor Fitzpatrick)

"There are definitely differences in the ranges for vital signs or how we order medications for kids," said MacPhee.

"For an adult, it's usually a standard dose no matter your size, but for kids, some of those details really matter depending on your age or weight."

The IWK estimates children make 60,000 visits to other Nova Scotia emergency departments every year.

At the Aberdeen Hospital in New Glasgow, it's Chanda MacDonald's job to make sure staff are up to date on their training.

'The exact same care'

She said the doctors and nurses in their emergency department are great at learning the latest treatments for conditions, but the bonus of the Trekk program is that the care is consistent no matter what hospital children go to.

"Families may feel, 'Do I have to go to the IWK?' and those patients would be assured by staff that they're getting the exact same care. It kind of gives them a sense of reassurance that everything is being done the exact same," said MacDonald.

While the program is still being fully implemented, MacPhee said this partnership between the IWK and the different health authorities has other benefits.

All Nova Scotia hospitals visited

She said she often receives calls and questions from rural physicians. By visiting those hospitals, she can give better advice.

"It's actually a really great opportunity for us to understand what kind of resources they may have, what their physical layout may look like," she said.

So far, the Trekk team has completed 15 visits, including all Nova Scotia hospitals. MacPhee said they hope to connect with the remaining hospitals in P.E.I. and New Brunswick.

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