Avoid packed ERs at Montreal children’s hospitals if you can, doctors say

Click to play video: 'Montreal’s pediatric hospitals warn patients should avoid ER in some cases'
Montreal’s pediatric hospitals warn patients should avoid ER in some cases
WATCH: There is a plea to parents from Montreal's two pediatric hospitals. Physicians from the Montreal Children's and Ste-Justine hospitals are advising parents to keep their children away if they are suffering from mild illnesses. The message comes as emergency departments are swamped with treating patients and many are spending hours waiting for care. Global's Tim Sargeant reports. – Dec 6, 2023

Pediatric hospitals in Montreal are urging parents to avoid the emergency department if their child’s condition does not require immediate and urgent care.

With the holidays fast approaching, health officials at the Montreal Children’s Hospital and Sainte-Justine hospital held a joint news conference Wednesday about long wait times in their respective emergency rooms. They expect to see more patients as flu season starting, too.

“Children with illnesses don’t all need to come to the emergency room,” said Dr. Laurie Plotnick, medical director of the pediatric emergency department at the Montreal Children’s Hospital.

The reminder comes as ERs across the city are packed and patients face lengthy delays, with both children’s hospitals hoping to free up spots for urgent cases.

From Nov. 17 to Dec. 1, minor health problems reportedly accounted for 58 per cent of ER visits at the Montreal Children’s Hospital. They accounted for 37 per cent at Sainte-Justine.

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“Most patients that are waiting long periods of time don’t even need to be in the emergency department,” said Dr. Antonio D’Angelo, head of emergency at Sainte-Justine.

Health officials asked parents to consider other options for their kids if their case isn’t urgent. Options include calling the 811 health hotline, walk-in clinics or booking appointments online. Patients won’t be turned away from ERs but the wait could be long.

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“We are trying to send a message to families who don’t need to necessarily have to come to the emergency department to be evaluated or managed to just think twice,” Plotnick said.

Click to play video: 'Quebec health minister says ‘tough’ weeks ahead for ERs'
Quebec health minister says ‘tough’ weeks ahead for ERs

But the doctors did say if your baby under the age of six months has a fever or child has difficulty breathing or hydrating, then head to the ER.

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The pediatric hospitals’ ask comes one day after it came to light that two patients died in separate incidents while waiting to see a doctor in a Montreal-area ER last week. An internal investigation and a coroner’s probe are underway into the deaths at the Hôpital Anna-Laberge in Châteauguay.

On Tuesday, the province’s health minister also asked Quebecers to consider alternatives if their illness isn’t urgent. There are delays in reaching a nurse when calling 811, he admitted, but said it’s better than spending hours waiting in the ER.

— with files from The Canadian Press

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