Two London hospitals will turn away sick children from their emergency departments throughout the winter in order to help adults fighting COVID-19.
The children’s casualty unit at University College London Hospital has been closed to children since March and the pediatric accident & emergency department at the Royal Free in Hampstead closed at the end of September, The Evening Standard reported.
These two hospitals have been designated as “surge sites” in preparation for a second wave of coronavirus cases.
Children who arrive at either hospital will be assessed by a nursing team but will be redirected to other services or taken to another hospital by ambulance instead of being admitted to the ward.
Sick children and teenagers under 18 will be redirected to Whittington or North Middlesex several miles away. Both hospitals have expanded their emergency units.
Barnet hospital will also accept children.
The London Ambulance Service will know not to take children to either hospital and prepare accordingly.
“On average 10 children a day walk into our emergency department,” a University College London Hospital spokesperson told The Evening Standard.
“We expect this number to reduce as we are working with our partners to communicate the temporary closure to the public, GPs and other referrers so that families are aware of where to get the best care.”
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The controversial changes were made after a review found “staffing levels are a challenge to being able to maintain safe and resilient services for children and young people.”
The Royal Free is working to double its adult intensive care capacity with the goal to keep as much of the hospital “COVID free” as possible.
Chief Executive Kate Slemeck said the hospital wants to increase its intensive care bed capacity from 48 to 60-65.
There is expected to be an “uptick” in ICU admissions in “late November,” Slemeck said.
Chase Farm hospital in Enfield, which does not have an accident and emergency department, is expected to remain open for non-COVID treatments.
Great Ormond Street Hospital will also provide room for urgent elective inpatient surgery and some day surgery.
A source who spoke to The Evening Standard on condition of anonymity expressed concern over the changes.
“Kids get sicker quicker and need more intensive treatment more quickly,” the source said.
“If you’re having to shlep your poorly kids up to the Whittington, that is more of a delay — and people don’t have the money right now either.”
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