Toronto’s SickKids hospital expecting two cancer patients from Ukraine

By Noushin Ziafati

Two pediatric cancer patients from Ukraine are soon expected to arrive in Toronto for treatment, the city’s Hospital for Sick Children said Tuesday, noting it has capacity to care for more children from the country recently invaded by Russia.

SickKids president and CEO Dr. Ronald Cohn said the two patients had crossed the border from Ukraine into Poland and were expected to arrive in Toronto by Wednesday.

The hospital faced “complex logistical challenges” in bringing the patients to Canada, including identifying patients and families who were able to travel to Toronto, as well as ensuring they had all the immigration documents they needed to make the trip, he said.

“This has been one of the worst humanitarian crises we have seen in our lifetime and SickKids is ready to care for Ukrainian pediatric patients where appropriate and within our existing capacity,” Cohn said during a news conference. Dr. Sarah Alexander, an oncologist at SickKids, said the hospital will reassess where the two children are in their cancer treatments, which were interrupted by the Russian invasion of Ukraine, and then do their best to provide them

with care.

“I think each diagnosis, each kids’ prior therapy, where they are in this course of therapy, we’ll need to … sort through,” she said.

“An unintended pause in cancer therapy is in general not ideal, but I don’t think that necessarily means that we can’t ultimately provide the care and do the things we would like to do for these kids.”

Cohn said SickKids will take a “multidisciplinary approach” to caring for the Ukrainian children, which will include support from social workers and other specialists within the hospital to address the various needs of the patients.

He noted that there are community members and volunteers outside of the hospital who are also offering food and toys to support the children.

“In all the tragedy that we are witnessing literally every hour of the day, the way how this community has come together outside of the hospital, the way how our internal hospital staff have come together with all the different agencies, the federal government, as well as other agencies in the provincial government, has been heartwarming,” he said.

While the hospital has made it “very clear” that it has capacity to receive more patients from Ukraine, as have other children’s hospitals in Canada, Cohn said the situation is “highly fluid.”

At the moment, Cohn said SickKids has the capacity to take in between 10 and 15 children and their families.

SickKids has long-standing partnerships with children’s hospitals in Ukraine, Cohn said, noting that staff from the hospital’s medical and operational teams have been on the ground working in Kyiv in recent years.

“We are fortunate through these collaborations to be in a position to be able to continue supporting our Ukrainian partners throughout these incredibly difficult times,” he said.

“And we will be there for the children and families who need us while ensuring there are no impacts to patient care for Torontonian, Ontarian and to our Canadian children.”

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has escalated in recent days, with more than three million people fleeing Ukraine so far.