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Sounding the alarm on Ontario’s crisis in children’s health care

September 11, 2020

Wait times and delayed care identified as urgent issues; 

coalition of Ontario pediatric health care providers to host town hall September 17

TORONTO, 10 September 2020 /CNW/ - Ontario children are victims of a health care crisis that the COVID-19 pandemic is only making worse. For some, it’s a matter of life and death. Parents across the country are already witnessing the repercussions of the pandemic on our children’s mental health, development and physical wellbeing. Ontario’s leading children’s healthcare providers are warning the Ontario government that a generation of lives is at stake if we don’t act now.

The Children’s Health Coalition is a growing collective including Children’s Mental Health Ontario, SickKids, CHEO, Holland Bloorview Kids Rehabilitation Hospital, McMaster Children’s Hospital, London Health Sciences Centre, Empowered Kids Ontario, Registered Nurses’ Association of Ontario and frontline health care professionals. It is calling on the Ontario government to immediately make substantive investments in children’s health care to alleviate the suffering of more than 160,000 children and families who are desperately waiting for mental health treatment, hospital surgeries and procedures, child development and rehabilitation services, and pediatric home care services.  

Kids in Crisis Town Hall posterThe Coalition is hosting the Kids in Crisis Town Hall open to all concerned Ontarians about the state of our children’s health on Thursday, September 17, 2020, at 7 p.m. ET. Coalition members are calling on the Ontario government to invest $375 million in children’s health and social care.

Even before the pandemic began, children were already waiting too long for procedures and surgeries. 28,000 children in Ontario were on waiting lists for mental health services and 80,000 children were on waitlists for child development and rehabilitation services, some languishing for years without support. Since the pandemic, over 30,000 pediatric procedures and appointments at children’s hospitals have been cancelled. Some children are waiting with no end in sight because of the pandemic, and others with complex needs who need home care are going without. 

Kids are facing waits of up to two and a half years for surgery – far beyond what would be considered clinically acceptable. The challenges brought on by COVID-19 have made a difficult situation even worse.   

According to an Ipsos survey commissioned by Children’s Mental Health Ontario, since COVID-19, almost 60 per cent of parents noted behavioural changes in their children, ranging from outbursts or extreme irritability to drastic changes in mood, behaviour or personality, altered sleeping patterns, persistent sadness and more. Significant changes like these can be signs of mental illness.  

It’s time to sound the alarm on a children’s healthcare system at its breaking point. Behind these numbers are real children and families. Without urgent action, these health and social challenges will follow children into adulthood, reducing their quality of life, driving up health care system costs and further straining our health and social care systems.

Lives are on the line and children’s development is a risk. The coalition is ready to partner with the government to bring about the urgent solutions needed. Our children deserve all partners at the table, ready to take action.  


Jennifer Churchill, CEO, Empowered Kids Ontario-Enfants Avenir Ontario 

“Children continue to grow and develop even when much of life takes a pause,” says Jennifer Churchill, CEO, Empowered Kids Ontario. “80,000 kids and their families were already waiting for service before the pandemic, which is compounding challenges for families and the already critical delays for diagnosis and treatment despite providers implementing innovative and swift changes to adapt to this ‘new normal.’ We all pay a huge price when kids can’t reach their potential. A decade without investment means we can’t keep up and achieve a promising future for every child.” 

Dr. Ronald Cohn, President and CEO, SickKids

“Children have largely been the unheard voices of the COVID-19 pandemic, particularly children who have complex medical needs or who may be coming from vulnerable living and family conditions. We must all work together to prioritize the needs of children and implement real, tangible solutions so not a single child will slip through the cracks created by this pandemic. Accessible mental health services, reduced wait times for surgeries and procedures, and robust home care supports are all critical to helping children and families manage during what has been an incredibly difficult time.”

Dr. Doris Grinspun, CEO Registered Nurses’ Association of Ontario (RNAO)

“Children are the tapestry of our future, a future that will look as healthy and fulfilled, as the investments we make today on Ontario’s children’s social, mental and physical health. Let’s work together to ensure no child is left behind. Let’s act today. If we don’t, tomorrow will be a day too late.”

Julia Hanigsberg, President and CEO, Holland Bloorview Kids Rehabilitation Hospital 

“Children with disabilities and complex medical needs are a diverse group of vulnerable Ontarians that need greater help in these challenging times. Together with their families, we ask that they are not left behind during this pandemic while they are confronted with insufficient home care support and caregiver burnout. These pervasive issues are causing deep hardship both economically and mentally.” 

Kimberly Moran, CEO, Children’s Mental Health Ontario 

“The pandemic has exposed the already frayed and inadequate health care system for children in Ontario,” says Kimberly Moran, CEO, Children’s Mental Health Ontario. “COVID-19 disrupted children from their routines, exacerbating pre-existing mental health conditions and creating a catalyst for new ones. Without proper care, the deterioration of our children’s mental health can be a matter of life or death. 28,000 kids were waiting prior to COVID-19, with an expected uptick in demand, the wait lists will grow exponentially.” 

Alex Munter, President and CEO, CHEO 

“Every day counts in the life of a child. Their developing brains, growing bodies and mental health are all impacted by the decisions we make,” says Alex Munter, President and CEO, CHEO. “We cannot afford for young people in our province to be collateral damage, especially since COVID-19 will be with us for some time.  We need to organize health services around their reality.” 

Bruce Squires, President, McMaster Children’s Hospital

“Nothing should stand in the way of caring for children and families even during these unusual times. The importance of treating childhood illness and disease, and developmental and behavioural issues cannot be understated. If we wait any longer, we know that we will miss the window of opportunity for some children.”

About the Children’s Health Coalition: The Children’s Health Coalition is a growing collective of children’s health organizations, including Children’s Mental Health Ontario, SickKids, CHEO, Holland Bloorview Kids Rehabilitation Hospital, McMaster Children’s Hospital, London Health Sciences Centre, Empowered Kids Ontario, and the Registered Nurses’ Association of Ontario. To register for Kids in Crisis Town Hall, and support children’s health and social care, visit:  

For further information: Morgan Cates, morgan.cates@crestviewstrategy.com



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