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Paediatric health care access in community health centres is associated with survival for critically ill children who undergo inter-facility transport: a province-wide observational study

Tijssen JA, To T, Morrison LJ, Alnaji F, MacDonald RD, Cupido C, Lee KS, Parshuram CS. Paediatr Child Health. 2020; 25(5):308-16. Epub 2019 Apr 26. DOI: 10.1093/pch/pxz013.

Background — Diverse settlement makes inter-facility transport of critically ill children a necessary part of regionalized health care. There are few studies of outcomes and health care services use of this growing population.

Methods — A retrospective study evaluated the frequency of transports, health care services use, and outcomes of all critically ill children who underwent inter-facility transport to a paediatric intensive care unit (PICU) in Ontario from 2004 to 2012. The primary outcome was PICU mortality. Secondary outcomes were 24-hour and 6-month mortality, PICU and hospital lengths of stay, and use of therapies in the PICU.

Results — The 4,074 inter-facility transports were for children aged median (IQR) 1.6 (0.1 to 8.3) years. The rate of transports increased from 15 to 23 per 100,000 children. There were 233 (5.7%) deaths in PICU and an additional 78 deaths (1.9%) by 6 months. Length of stay was median (IQR) 2 (1 to 5) days in PICU and 7 (3 to 14) days in the receiving hospital. Lower PICU mortality was independently associated with prior acute care contact (odds ratio [OR]=0.3, 95% confidence interval [CI]: 0.2 to 0.6) and availability of paediatric expertise at the referral hospital (OR=0.7, 95% CI: 0.5 to 1.0).

Conclusions — We found that in Ontario, children undergoing inter-facility transport to PICUs are increasing in number, consume significant acute care resources, and have a high PICU mortality. Access to paediatric expertise is a potentially modifiable factor that can impact mortality and warrants further evaluation.