Better care for kids arrives at Chilliwack hospital with new unit

New four-bed unit removes kids from chaotic emergency room environment, and gives them quicker access to pediatricians

Dr. Julian Pleydell-Pearce listens to a speech at the opening for the new pediatric unit at Chilliwack General Hospital. Pleydell-Pearce is one of five pediatricians who are on call at CGH. The new unit has four beds

It’s the arrival they’d all been waiting for.

So when the Chilliwack Fraser Rotary Club Pediatric Observation Unit was unveiled on Friday morning, it was to a large, adoring crowd of supporters, fundraisers, politicians and hospital staff.

After a few speeches and official ribbon cutting, they moved through the unit to ‘ooh and ahh’ at every impressive detail. The four new beds, including a beautiful new crib, are located on the third floor, adjacent to the maternity ward, and will be used for short term observations of infants and children.

Every detail helps to make the hospital stay as comfortable as possible.

When young patients are moved there from the emergency room, they’ll be greeted by murals of animals in the forest, created by Yarrow artist Kimi Postma. The cheery paintings continue through to the unit’s main hallway and beyond, into the well-stocked playroom.

But it’s not all about looks. Patients will receive child-friendly care, and the unit will be overseen by the hospital’s five pediatricians, and nurses with pediatric training and experience. They’ll also work in collaboration the ER. The unit will support children who require 24-hour observation, an overnight stay at the hospital or outpatient services such as dressing changes, wound care, tube feeding or IV therapy.

Not every child admitted to the ER will end up in the new observation unit, Dr. Julian Pleydell-Pearce explained. But it will be a quiet oasis for those who are moved there.

The ER is a noisy place with a fast-paced atmosphere that can add distress to a young child, and the medical monitoring equipment there is designed for adults, such as tight-fitting blood pressure monitors. In the new unit, medical equipment is set up for pediatric needs.

“Children are not small adults,” Pleydell-Pearce said. “They are different physically and they are differently psychologically.”

The new unit did not come to CGH slowly, or easily.

It’s been a Herculean effort by many, and over a long period of time.

“I came to Chilliwack in 2007 and even then people were saying ‘when will we have a pediatric ward?’,” Pleydell-Pierce said.

But over the last three years, the project picked up steam, and major fundraising efforts and planning made the dream a reality.

Fraser Health provided funding for ongoing operations and some renovations, while the Fraser Valley Health Care Foundation funded equipment and the child-friendly décor with the help of organizations including the Rotary Club of Chilliwack-Fraser, Chilliwack Hospital Auxiliary, Fraser Valley Shrine Club #11 and Kiwanis Club of Sardis.

“This unit was conceptualized in response to concern about children having to wait for treatment along with adults in the emergency department,” said Petra Pardy, executive director of the CGH. “It can be an intimidating and frightening experience, especially during evening or overnight visits to Emergency.”

“While some children will still begin their journey in the emergency department, we are now able to quickly transfer them to an environment with specialized pediatric nurses and pediatricians to attend to their care needs,” Pardy said.

The unit did take two beds out of the maternity ward, and uses two medical beds. But the necessity of a children’s ward was too great a need to ignore.

Loraine Jenkins, executive director of Maternal Infant Child and Youth for Fraser Health was one of many executives on hand for the grand opening.

I acknowledge and thank the nurses and physicians from the maternity unit who have supported this project, since it meant that they gave up some of their maternity space to allow it to happen.

She also thanked maternity manager Sarah Hyatt, project lead Rejeanne Mclean, Angela Bennett in facilities, and Dr. Pleydell-Pearce for their efforts.

“They have been the driving force behind the pediatric observation unit and have worked tirelessly to for its success,” she said.

Hyatt said the new unit will succeed in two ways.

“It removes (children) from the often chaotic emergency room environment, and it gives them quicker access to pediatricians for urgent consults and assessments.”

Fraser Health says the unit is modelled after the successful pilot launched at Ridge Meadows Hospital in 2013, which has seen more than 1800 pediatric visits a year since opening.

To donate to the Pediatric Observation Unit, visit www.FVHCF.ca