Winnipeg Children’s Hospital opens new pediatric cardiac unit

The outdated and crowded pediatric cardiac unit has officially been replaced at HSC Children’s Hospital in Winnipeg.

The new unit is called the Travis Price Cardiac Care Centre, named after a child who died of an undiagnosed heart condition. It’s now located inside the main hospital building and not across the street.

The unit is also double the size of the old one. It has more spacious examination rooms, specialty care labs, and a private communication room where physicians can have sensitive conversations with families.

“Before, if I was giving families bad, complicated news it was often in a dark ultrasound room or in a hallway,” said Dr. Reeni Soni, the section head for the pediatric cardiology program.

Soni said the old space was built in the 1980s and became out of date. That’s because advancements in cardiac care mean more children live through early-life heart complications.

“Now we’re seeing close to 6,000 patients a year in a space that was built to see, at best, 2,000,” Soni said. “So there was a desperate need to move to a space that had more, well-planned-out areas.”

Dr. Soni said she sketched out the basic design for the centre 15 years ago, and when Travis Price’s family approached the hospital to lead a fundraising campaign, she brought the idea forward. Price died of an undiagnosed heart condition as a child.

Stefano Grande, the president and CEO of the Children’s Hospital Foundation of Manitoba said $17.7-million was raised by a legion of donors to make the centre a reality.

“Up until today, our hospital has never had a catheterization lab. Forty to 50 kids per year, every single year, had to be transported to other hospitals to get their diagnostics and minor surgeries. That’s now happening here,” he told CTV News.

Dr. Soni said the space is meant to be bright and inviting for kids, but also comfortable and has a natural flow for families there for several different tests and examinations. It’s also closer to the pediatric intensive care unit and emergency room. She added that most of the children will need to come to the centre routinely for care right up until they turn 18.

“It almost becomes a second home to them,” she said. “But even practically, to get the things done that we need to do, like ultrasounds, we’ve noticed we need less sedative medications to get those tests done.”

For the Miller family, the most noticeable change in their son Jaxon is he’s not as anxious to go to the hospital anymore.

“He doesn’t even know he is in the hospital half the time, it’s just a warm and nurturing environment in here,” said Kristyn Miller, Jaxon’s mother.

Jaxon had a heart transplant at four months old. Kristyn said in his first year of life they were at the hospital for more than 100 appointments at the old clinic and many of them were scattered across the Children’s Hospital campus.

“You were racing against the clock half the time because it was just rushed,” she said.

Now the family only has to come to the one spot which is full of interactive play areas that Jaxon runs towards each time they arrive. He also doesn’t mind getting check-ups, which to him just feel like tickles.

Kristyn said the new space, paid for largely by donations, now matches the world-class care.

“It just fills me up so much to know that other people care about sick kids too.”