Ottawa

Ambulance program for newborns looks to expand across Ontario

An ambulance service dedicated to transporting critically ill newborns between Ottawa-area health facilities will continue after a successful pilot project, and now the team behind it wants to expand.

Neonatal transport team in Ottawa has shown 'very fruitful' results, director says

This neonatal ambulance is specially equipped to deal with critically ill newborns because it has a mobile intensive care unit onboard. CHEO started the pilot project in 2015, and it is now continuing indefinitely. (Darryl Wilton)

An ambulance service dedicated to transporting critically ill newborns between Ottawa-area health facilities will continue after a successful pilot project, and now the team behind it wants to expand.

The pilot, which began in 2015, is run by CHEO, a pediatric health and research centre in Ottawa.

Over the past few years, the service has brought infants to the intensive care unit much faster, which leads to better outcomes, according to Dr. Stephanie Redpath, medical director of CHEO's neonatal transport team.

"The results were very fruitful," Redpath told CBC Radio's Ottawa Morning on Friday. 

"We saw a reduction in time to reach the patient, which is probably the most important time ... we saw a reduction in our stabilization times ... and an overall reduction in patients [admitted] to CHEO."

Dr. Stephanie Redpath, the medical director of CHEO's neonatal transport team, says the pilot was well received by CHEO and Ottawa paramedics. (Kristy Nease/CBC)

CHEO's neonatal transport team operates in communities covered by the Champlain, South East and North East Local Health Integration Networks and their reach extends from Kingston and Belleville to the James Bay and Hudson Bay coast.

That area is nearly 440,000 square kilometres, which is larger than countries like Sweden, Japan and Germany.

In Ottawa there's one dedicated neonatal ambulance branded with a CHEO teddy bear, and a few other Ottawa ambulances have been outfitted with a specialized loading and docking system to turn them into neonatal units.

The system allows paramedics to load in the 300- to 400-pound mobile intensive care units required to treat critically ill newborns as needed.

Now, CHEO's neonatal transport team hopes its model will be adopted across the province. Redpath said they're presenting their business case to the Ministry of Health.

CBC Radio's Ottawa Morning

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