Montreal ERs busy with ice-related injuries, as city defends de-icing delays

MONTREAL – The city is feeling the heat for its handling of the ice storm that hit Montreal on Sunday. Despite claims that many boroughs didn’t call in enough workers to get the sidewalks salted before the deep freeze set it, city officials are on the defensive.

“I can reassure every single Montrealer right now that we are addressing with all the equipment available, the sidewalk issue,” said Harout Chitilian, vice president of the Executive Committee.

The mix of mild and wet weather over the weekend followed by extremely cold temperatures has transformed many city streets and sidewalks into virtual skating rinks.

“It could be better. It’s very dangerous, especially for old people,” said Moris Pal as he left the Montreal General Hospital with his wife.

Doctors at the MUHC are dealing with up to five times the normal number of ice-related injuries, including fractures, sprains and even head injuries.

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“There’s lots of ice out there, people are slipping and sliding away; landing on their hips, their ankles, their wrists and their heads, which is unfortunate, said Dr. Greg Clark, an emergency room physician.

The Royal Victoria’s emergency room was bursting at the seems on Tuesday, at 163 per cent capacity. The Montreal General’s ER was at 131 per cent, mostly due to cases of the flu and ice-related fractures.

“I would say wrists are very common because when we fall we put our hands out and break our wrists,” said Clark.

Some are criticizing the city for being slow to call in some snow removal trucks to tackle the sidewalks, but officials deny that claim, insinuating instead that some workers refused to come into work when the storm hit on Sunday.

“There’s also a management issue because they have call-up lists so when you face a situation of this nature, you start calling people and some people are not obliged to come into work right away,” said Chitilian.

The city will investigate the ice and snow removal time lines in all 19 boroughs to see what can be done to speed up snow removal operations the next time around.

Meanwhile, doctors are warning vulnerable Montrealers to steer clear of the sidewalks until they’re completely free of ice.

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“Spikes for your shoes can help prevent the slipping but the most important thing is: if you don’t have to go out try not to,” said Dr. Clark.

But for those who can’t get around it, stick together like Moris and Lucie Pal, who are tightly holding on to each other while walking down Cedar Avenue’s slippery sidewalk.

“If we fall, we both fall but hopefully not!” said the elderly couple.

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