Photo: HUS Ville Männikkö

Health & wellbeing

In a promising turn of events, the New Pediatric Hospital has successfully reduced its waitlist for children's heart surgeries by half. At the end of last year, 110 children were awaiting their turn for heart surgeries. The number has now been reduced to 54.

Over the past year, the hospital has taken systematic and intensified actions to operate on pediatric patients requiring less complex heart surgeries, ensuring that the most critical cases receive timely care.

"While ensuring that patients requiring intricate surgeries are not compromised, our cardiac surgery team has effectively operated on patients awaiting less intensive surgeries," said Jari Petäjä, the director for Children and Adolescents' Diseases at HUS.

The children's cardiac surgery scenario had become dire by the end of last year. "We have been working relentlessly to address the situation, and with the collaborative effort of various stakeholders, we've made significant progress in reducing the backlog. Multiple measures have been taken to diffuse the crisis," Petäjä added.

To bolster the treatment capabilities, there's been an emphasis on recruiting intensive care nurses. The number of pediatric ICU nurses has been increased by 10% this year. Jukka Salminen, director of pediatric surgery, mentioned, "We've improved the work distribution amongst pediatric ICU, neonatal ICU, and adult ICU, which has now become our standard operation."

A decline in the demand for intensive care has also been observed, possibly due to a drop in birth rates which seems to affect particularly the neonatal ICU demand. Additionally, the use of ECMO treatments – an intensive care method used for life-threatening respiratory or circulatory failures – has been moderate, with no extended periods recorded.

Ensuring Excellence in Pediatric Intensive Care through Collaboration

The New Pediatric Hospital is currently piloting an advanced training program for nurses and specialized doctors in pediatric intensive care. The first nurse from TYKS underwent training this spring, and five more nurses from Turku and Tampere university hospitals are scheduled for training this fall.

Salminen revealed, "The interest in intensive care doctor training from other university hospitals is tremendous. The first intensive care doctor is currently being trained, and all training slots have been filled up until the end of 2024."

A significant training program for nurses and doctors was launched this spring with a €1 million grant from the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health. Besides TAYS and TYKS, KYS and OYS joining the project implies its expansion to a national scale, even in its pilot phase, added Petäjä.

Furthermore, the New Pediatric Hospital has been offering child patients awaiting heart surgery an opportunity to undergo the operation in Denmark. "While the number of heart surgeries performed in Denmark is small, it hasn't influenced the halving of our queue. We've established a pathway with Copenhagen's Rigshospitalet and will keep it open, valuing the collaboration," said Petäjä.

On average, the New Pediatric Hospital performs around 280 heart surgeries annually. However, only about 250 were carried out between 2021 and 2022. This year, they anticipate reaching their previous numbers.