More newborns showing up for emergency care during pandemic, Winnipeg pediatrician says

A Winnipeg pediatrician says she is seeing an increase in the number of newborns needing emergency care during the pandemic – and she fears the trend could worsen in the coming weeks.

Dr Lynne Warda said this was because many of the problems babies face – from jaundice and dehydration to poor nutrition and weight loss – are things that would have typically been reported during an in-person visit during the first two weeks of their life. .

But with fewer face-to-face visits, these common conditions often go unnoticed until they require hospitalization, she said.

“We are particularly concerned at this time by the increase in cases and also with the approach of the holidays, where we know that many offices are closing. [or switching to] statutory holidays, ”Warda told CBC Manitoba Radio Information host Marcy Markusa.

“It’s going to be even more difficult to get face-to-face visits for these newborns.”

Warda, who works in the Children’s Emergency Department at the Health Sciences Center, said that at the start of the pandemic, the children’s emergency department went eerily silent.

In fact, she said the drop in the number of babies coming to care in the first two weeks of life was around 30%.

Dr. Lynne Warda, seen in this file photo, works in the Children’s Emergency Department at the Winnipeg Health Sciences Center. She says she is seeing an increase in the number of newborns requiring emergency care during the pandemic. (Holly Caruk / CBC)

“Part of the reason was we thought families were probably just afraid to come in, not wanting to get sick from COVID,” she said.

But then the ward staff began to see babies showing signs of jaundice, weight loss, and dehydration much later in life than normal.

While these conditions are all fairly common in newborns, they weren’t detected early enough for typical treatments, like home phototherapy for cases of jaundice, Warda said.

“And then the baby has to be admitted to the hospital, which is obviously not what you want with your newborn,” she said.

“Always faced with these problems”

While emergency department visits for this age group have now returned to normal, they still have higher admission rates for certain conditions in newborns, Warda said.

Jaundice cases have increased by almost 40% this year, while visits for feeding difficulties and dehydration have increased by more than 20%.

“So we are still facing these problems, and we think it is [because of] a lack of face-to-face care and the ability of families to weigh their babies from day 3 to day 5 to catch these greater weight losses [cases],” she said.

Warda said she wanted to encourage primary care providers like pediatricians and family physicians to ensure that newborns are seen in the first days of life, even if it is a hybrid visit carried out partly by phone or virtually.

“They really need weight, especially babies who we think are most at risk for breastfeeding difficulties, weight loss and dehydration,” she said.

“So, for example, a mom who is breastfeeding for the first time… is one who definitely needs a face to face assessment.”

Warda said she knew it could be difficult for new parents to absorb all the information they are bombarded with in hospitals.

But it’s especially important that parents pay attention to what she calls red flags when they bring their babies home – and push to make sure they get face-to-face visits. face if they need it.

“You have to advocate for your visits. It will be very difficult to get in over the next few weeks. Keep in touch with your primary care provider and your public health nurse,” she said.

“Get all the support you can over the phone and hopefully we’ll provide further updates on other options that may be able to resolve this issue in the coming weeks. “

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