At the Western Canadian Children’s Heart Network (WCCHN), little hearts are our big calling. For over 20 years, we’ve dedicated ourselves to ensuring that children with heart disease – and their families – receive the best cardiac care available. By using a regional approach, we bridge some of the greatest minds and best facilities across provincial borders to achieve a shared goal: providing world-class care to children in Western Canada, when it’s needed the most.
Founded in 2001 with the objective of facilitating urgent surgical referrals between provinces, WCCHN is North America’s only regional care network dedicated exclusively for children with heart conditions. Our network connects 5 pediatric hospitals under one umbrella, bringing together individual strengths and expertise to facilitate cooperation in the delivery of care. This sometimes means giving doctors a way to refer patients across provincial borders. It sometimes means connecting experts to collaborate on complex cases. It always means an unwavering and unified commitment to giving each child the care they deserve.
Today, our network has grown from its beginnings as a regional referral system to become a diverse community of patients, families, and care providers, all connected by the same desire – to deliver the highest standard of care to the littlest hearts that depend on us. Everything we do – from the services we provide, to the data we collect, to the collaboration we enable – is carefully designed to improve the health and wellness of children and their families.
The network includes two pediatric cardiac surgical programs (BC Children’s Hospital in Vancouver and the Stollery Children’s Hospital in Edmonton) and three referring centres (Alberta Children’s Hospital in Calgary, Jim Pattison Children’s Hospital in Saskatoon and the Children’s Hospital HSC in Winnipeg).
To offer a framework for which collaborative cardiac care is provided to children in western provinces and territories.
Equal and timely access to world-class care for children with heart disease.
Cooperation | Approachability | Reliability | Inclusivity | Productivity
Our regional structure offers a framework for partner hospitals and specialists from all areas of the child cardiology community to better collaborate as they care for patients. To ensure the highest quality of care and the best possible outcomes, we focus on the following strategies:
Sometimes, children with cardiac conditions require specialized or urgent care that may not be available in their home province. When care justifies the need for patient travel, or when the expertise needed is only available at a different partner site, our network facilitates surgical referrals between WCCHN sites. As surgical resources for western Canada are localized at two sites within the network, patients will either be referred to the Stollery Children’s Hospital in Edmonton, Alberta, or the BC Children’s Hospital in Vancouver, BC.
The WCCHN database – which houses demographic, diagnostic, and interventional information on patients at any of the five pediatric centres in the network – supports the referral process. Acting as a central and shared source of information, the database improves communication between referral and surgical sites and ensures the key details for decision making are transferred correctly.
WCCHN connects hospital sites in a way that promotes collaboration and shared decision making to improve the levels of care received by patients. Each hospital, and the children they care for, benefit from the collective expertise, resources and capacity of the entire network.
Through activities including weekly video-conference meetings, highly skilled teams from across hospital sites in the network come together to discuss specific cases, review diagnostic imaging, decide on treatment options and more. This ensures that no matter where a child is located, experts from across half the country have the ability to contribute their knowledge and experience to that child’s plan of care.
The WCCHN database houses important data on patients cared for within the network, including diagnoses, treatments, outcomes and more. It is one of the largest child cardiac databases in North America.
In addition to playing a key role in interprovincial surgical referrals (by acting as a shared source of information for clinicians at the referring and surgical sites), the database allows for the collection, analyses and benchmarking of essential data that ensures western Canadian children are receiving some of the best cardiac care in the world.
This information plays a key role in care delivery, but also helps us continuously evaluate and improve performance. Data is regularly sent to hospital sites and health authorities, and is benchmarked against international peers through participation in several registries (including the The American College of Cardiology’s “Improving Pediatric and Adult Congenital Treatments” (ACC IMPACT) Registry and the Society of Thoracic Surgeons (STS) National Congenital Heart Surgery Database.
The WCCHN community is made up of a diverse mix of patients, families, care providers, surgeons and clinicians. Each is valued, connected, and supported through the network. This means providing parents and families with practical guidance and connection to peer-support networks, enabling clinicians and care providers with opportunities to better collaborate and generate new ideas, and ensuring each hospital site is able to access resources that complement their own.
View our biennial report for information on our achievements, milestones and financials.