Ontario parents take their babies and newborns to hospital emergency departments more often than older children, according to new data from the Canadian Institute for Health Information.

Children younger than five are most likely to visit the emergency department, making up more than one third of all emergency visits by children under 18, the report found.

And newborns and babies younger than 12 months had the most visits — and were also more likely to be brought back for emergency care by their parents.


The report, released yesterday by the Canadian Institute for Health Information (CIHI), is based on data submitted from 171 hospital emergency departments in Ontario in a one-year period between April 2005 and March 2006.

Angelo Mikrogianakis, an emergency physician at The Hospital for Sick Children and chair of the acute care committee at the Canadian Pediatric Society, is concerned young children and babies make so many visits — and return visits.

“It may be a sign that parents need help when their young child is not well, and that quick access to family doctors and pediatricians is not available,” he said. “So they have to seek out care in the emergency department because that’s the only place they can get it.”

It may also indicate parents of babies and young children are more cautious when their child is unwell, he said.

Mikrogianakis points out the CIHI data only provides raw numbers to inform hospital planners and policy-makers and highlight areas for future study, including why so many babies are brought to emergency departments. Other reports suggest the shortage of family doctors and primary care physicians in Ontario may play a role, he said.

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