Media Advisory: Leading Canadian Children’s Hospitals Warn of Looming Crisis

Pandemic emergency measures have increased wait times for care and kept children isolated

Ottawa, July 6, 2020 – Canadian child health experts are sounding the alarm that COVID-19 has created a crisis in children’s health with potentially catastrophic impacts to the physical and mental health of children.

With schools out for summer, childcare spaces being few and far between, and plans for a return to school in the fall still being determined, there are concerns that children’s human rights are being violated. These include their rights to a quality education, the highest attainable standard of health, protection from violence, and access to recreation.

Many children are living in isolation, cut off from the essential supports that are critical to their wellbeing and experts warn there will be both short and long-term consequences. Kids who are at risk of experiencing violence at home are no longer being monitored as they normally would be through school and are unable to access to trusted adults outside of their home. And while many non-essential services have opened, many kids cannot safely access childcare or recreational activities during the summer.

Health care leaders at Canada’s top children’s hospitals are also concerned with the lack of health care support. While Canadians of all ages now face the reality that a large back log will mean they have to wait longer for needed assessments, therapies or procedures, forcing children to wait extra months or even years will affect their growth and development.

Alex Munter, President and CEO, CHEO – (Ottawa)

“Before COVID, too many kids were already waiting too long for the health care they needed. Now, as organizations like ours begin to ramp back up within current funding limits, it will take us well into 2021 before we even get back to the wait times we had last winter. In areas like mental health care, we are already seeing a surge in demand for crucial services that were stretched to begin with. Every day matters in the life of a child and these kinds of delays for specialist care, developmental therapies or needed surgery will have huge impacts on kids’ well-being and development. This issue needs to be an important priority for all levels of government.”

Dr. Krista Jangaard, President and CEO, IWK Health Centre (Halifax)

“Throughout the pandemic the impact of the COVID 19 on children has been underestimated, the notion being that since they are less likely to have serious infection, they are unscathed. While the effects on development and mental wellness with isolation, the closure of schools and the restrictions on social activities have been raised as concerns, less has been brought forward about the very real impacts on physical health for those facing longer waits for planned surgeries or reduced access to needed ambulatory services.”

Dr. Ronald Cohn, President and CEO, The Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids) (Toronto)

“Heightened anxiety, lack of social supports, loss of routines, social isolation: these are just a few of the indirect adverse effects of COVID-19 impacting the mental, developmental and physical health of children and youth. Fear of contracting COVID-19 is causing some families to delay seeking necessary routine and sometimes urgent medical care, which can have serious consequences. It is time to focus on the health and well-being of our children.”

Sara Austin, founder and CEO of Children First Canada, a leading child rights advocacy organization that includes experts from Canada’s top hospitals on its Council, agrees with the health experts’ warnings. “It will be a failure of leadership at all political levels if we cannot put in place the basic supports our children need to survive let alone thrive.” She also adds that investing in children is critical to any economic recovery program. “Canada’s path to economic recovery will be seriously derailed if we don’t act now to invest in children.”

For an interview with Dr. Ronald Cohn, Alex Munter, Dr. Krista Jangaard or Sara Austin, please contact:

Andrea Chrysanthou

Global Public Affairs