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Quebec City residents asked to avoid five swamped ERs amid staff shortages

Click to play video: 'Staff shortages to cause ER closures in 6 Quebec hospitals this summer' Staff shortages to cause ER closures in 6 Quebec hospitals this summer
WATCH: Quebec’s health minister has announced that six hospitals will be forced to partially close their emergency departments for the summer due to staff shortages. It's a chronic problem in the healthcare system that seemingly has no short-term solution. And as Global’s Dan Spector reports, healthcare workers warn that the closures could have dire effects on patients – Jun 22, 2022

Quebec City residents were asked Tuesday to avoid unnecessary trips to five emergency rooms struggling with staff shortages and overcrowding.

The Centre hospitalier universitaire de Québec said that sustained high patient volumes combined with staffing challenges have created a “critical situation” in its five hospital ERs.

Read more: COVID-19: Quebec’s 7th wave sees increased transmission of BA.5 variant

As of Tuesday afternoon, 548 health-care workers were absent due to COVID-19, Michele Schaffner-Junius, a spokeswoman for the hospital network, said in an email, adding that the number of health workers was already reduced because of vacations.

“The absenteeism rate due to the virus is proportionally one of the highest we have experienced,” Schaffner-Junius said. The number of ambulatory patients arriving at the network’s emergency rooms has also risen, she added.

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Read more: ER alert over at Montreal children’s hospital after weekend overcrowding

“This increase is primarily due to a significant increase in emergency room visits for multifactorial respiratory problems, on both the adult side and pediatric, which is quite unusual for this time of year,” Schaffner-Junius said. “Over the past few weeks, our emergency rooms have had stretcher occupancy rates of above 150 per cent.”

Health-care workers who are COVID-19-positive are being asked to return to work after six days in isolation if their condition permits, she said, in an effort to maintain care levels and limit the use of mandatory overtime.

Read more: Doctors say health system has ‘collapsed’ as patient surges fuel ER closures

Patients are being asked to avoid the emergency rooms unless they need critical care and to instead consult a clinic, a pharmacist or call the province’s 811 health hotline. The hospitals in question are the CHUL et Centre mere-enfant Soleil, Hopital de l’Enfant-Jesus, Hopital du Saint-Sacrement, Hopital Saint-Francois d’Assise and Hotel-Dieu de Quebec.

The notice to avoid ERs came as hospitals across the province struggle to maintain emergency services and are being forced to partially close or redirect patients elsewhere.

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