Caring for children with COVID-19
Caring for children takes a special kind of person, and here at Sydney Children’s Hospitals Network (SCHN), we have more than 8,000 staff working around the clock to keep our kids safe.
The impact of COVID-19 is being felt by all of us. Including our children.
As community cases remain high, our teams are doing what they do best – rallying together for sick children. Whether they are COVID positive, or their parents are simply too unwell to care for them, our staff are there to make sure every child is safe, supported and connected to their loved ones.
If a child you love is affected by COVID, help is at hand.
This is how we are responding to COVID-19.
More than 1000 COVID positive children are receiving specialist care in the comfort of their own home, under SCHN’s first dedicated virtual care program – virtualKIDS.
This collaborative service provides healthcare, virtually and in person, to children who have tested positive for COVID-19 but who are well enough to be cared for at home.
Staffed by a multidisciplinary team including medical staff, social workers, dieticians, infectious disease specialists, and child life and music therapists, virtualKIDS provides the highest level of support and care to children and their families from across the state.
Dr Joanne Ging, Paediatrician and Director of Clinical Operations explains that by using technology and delivering medical supplies and other necessities, the team can ensure that children are supported.
“Along with regular video appointments and home visits, families also have access to a 24/7 hotline staffed by clinicians, who are available to answer questions or concerns from families of COVID positive children.”
“This collaborative and accessible approach to care allows COVID positive children and their families to remain safely isolated at home while their health and wellbeing is closely monitored,” says Dr Ging.
Dr Ging spoke about virtualKIDS and the other services SCHN are providing to care for COVID-affected children and families on The Today Show.
The virtualKIDS model of care was developed thanks to initial funding from the NSW Health Virtual Care Accelerator, a multi-agency partnership led by eHealth NSW and the Agency for Clinical Innovation. The current COVID service is fully funded by NSW Health.
While efforts are currently focused on the COVID-19 response, the next phase of the virtualKIDS service will include rolling out virtual services to children with respiratory and cardiac conditions, with support from NSW Health’s Virtual Care Accelerator and Sydney Children’s Hospitals Foundation.
Home in Hospital and inpatient services
SCHN recently established a “Home in Hospital” service to care for COVID positive children, or children whose parents have been hospitalised with COVID-19 and are too sick to care for them.
These children are cared for in a state-of-the art, therapeutic, supportive environment, with daily access to schooling, social work, mental health support and child life and music therapy sessions.
Keeping families connected is an absolute priority, with all children having access to devices to contact their loved ones 24/7, using programs like Facetime and Zoom.
SCHN also provides inpatient services for COVID positive children and young people requiring hospitalisation.
Thankfully, the vast majority of COVID-positive children are being cared for in the community, in the comfort of their own home. The number of children being cared for, both through the Home in Hospital service as inpatients due to COVID-19-related illness, varies each day and is dependant on the needs of the child and their family.
Nurse Unit Manager Joanne Ta, is leading a nursing team of more than 55 staff members in caring for and supporting children in Home in Hospital.
“We work closely with a multi-disciplinary team across SCHN including the Social Work, Nutrition & Dietetics, Child Life Therapy, Occupational Therapy, Physiotherapy, Speech Pathology, the Hospital School and even our Volunteers to organise toys and activities for these kids,” said Joanne.
“Everyone in the team works so hard and goes above and beyond into caring for these kids. It can sometimes be a hard and anxiety-provoking situation but our team just want to make sure these kids are cared for properly and are doing such an amazing job.”
For the Islam family, the Home in Hospital service was a lifeline in one of the most stressful times of their lives.
Mohammad, a father of three small children, contracted COVID in the community, even though he was extremely vigilant and careful. His wife and six month old son were also infected, with their two older children managing to avoid contracting the virus.
Only a day after testing positive, Mohammad and his wife, Afsana, began to struggle to breathe and required hospital treatment, with Afsana being admitted to ICU.
Too unwell to care for their children, the three boys were admitted to CHW to be cared for in the Home in Hospital service.
“I was so worried. Who would feed the baby, hold him, rock him to sleep, now he was infectious?,” said Mr Islam. Thankfully, SCHN staff are there to do just that.
The Islam family are now recovering at home, and are extremely thankful to each and every staff member who cared for their boys when they were unable to. You can read more of their story in the Sydney Morning Herald.
Specialist state-wide support
Local Health Districts (LHD) across NSW are delivering care to children affected by COVID-19, with SCHN providing support and advice as needed.
SCHN is working with NSW Health, LHDs and other government and non-government agencies to ensure safe, consistent and best practice care is delivered to children, at the right time, in the right place.
Our COVID-19 vaccination teams at Randwick and Westmead have been working tirelessly behind-the-scenes and on the front line to ensure staff and the community have easy access to vaccination.
Our focus is now firmly fixed on supporting the Australian Government’s vaccination roll out to children aged 12-15 years.
While COVID-19 illness in children is generally mild, the best thing parents and carers can do for their children is access vaccination. It is the absolute best way to keep our kids safe, healthy and out of hospital.
For more information on COVID-19, visit our dedicated COVID-19 webpage.