‘Ottawa’ CHEO will ‘Never Turn Away’ Kids Barred From life-saving Surgeries by U.S. Travel Ban
Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario says it will never turn away a child in need of life-saving care and is prepared to open its doors to ailing children barred by U.S. President Donald Trump’s contentious travel ban from receiving life-saving surgeries in the United States.
“We do, of course, empathize and sympathize with a terrible situation that these families find themselves in, and we’re never going to turn away someone who requires life-saving surgery,” CHEO media relations official Paddy Moore said Friday evening. “CHEO will do what it can, given the capacity it has, to help in this situation as well as it can.”
Ontario Health Minister Eric Hoskins said Friday the government had learned some children destined for critical surgeries in the U.S. were being turned away solely because of where they were born.
“We’re fortunate here in Ontario to have such high-quality pediatric specialists and hospitals, so we have the technical ability to help, and it seemed natural almost,” he said. “This is what Canada believes in, helping where we can, helping vulnerable children from around the world.”
Trump’s executive order — issued last Friday — temporarily bans travel for people from Iran, Iraq, Syria, Sudan, Somalia, Libya and Yemen. It also temporarily halts the U.S. refugee program.
Surgeons in the U.S. approached Canadian colleagues at the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto and told them they’d had to cancel surgeries for children coming from those countries, Hoskins said.
Sick Kids then reached out to the Ontario government, which Hoskins said is working to facilitate any surgeries that can be performed in the province. He said he has also spoken to the federal government, which indicated it was ready to help expedite visas for the children and their families, Hoskins said.
Moore said that while Sick Kids would be taking the lead, CHEO was ready, willing and able to provide specialized pediatric care to children affected by the travel ban.
Though there have not yet been any formal requests made to CHEO, Hoskins said he was already aware of “several” requests at Sick Kids.
“Sick Kids performs highly complex surgeries, and so they have a capacity that is unique in that regard. They are getting most of these requests, because the reason why these kids are travelling is that they require highly complex surgical procedures,” said Moore.
“We would have to assess every case as it comes in. It depends on timing and need, but we will assess every case as it comes to us and then make a determination based on ability and capacity, and we’ll do all we can do.”
Ontario already has programs in place to provide health care on a humanitarian basis, Hoskins said, adding he’s “confident” the government would be able to provide the hospitals with “whatever support they would need.
“Given that this is a critical time for these ill children, our ministry and Ontario’s specialized children’s hospitals, which provide best-in-the-world care, feel the responsibility to act quickly.”
With files from The Canadian Press