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With pediatric ERs overwhelmed, where can Quebec parents turn if their children are sick?

Click to play video: 'Where can Quebec parents turn with sick children when emergency rooms fail?'
Where can Quebec parents turn with sick children when emergency rooms fail?
WATCH: As pediatric emergency rooms continue to deal with unprecedented levels of sick children, family doctors and clinics are also overcrowded and overwhelmed. Many parents are exhausted just looking for someone to call and a place to bring their sick child. Global's Felicia Parrillo takes a look at the options and alternatives available – Nov 29, 2022

Anna Belmonte’s eight-week-old son was born premature, but like many Quebecers, Francesco doesn’t have a family doctor or a pediatrician. So when her son fell sick a few weeks ago, Belmonte immediately brought him to the Montreal Children’s Hospital.

READ MORE: Record number of Quebec children home sick from school

After a five-hour wait, a doctor told her he had nasal congestion and it would clear up soon.

But when it didn’t, and she wanted a second opinion, she didn’t know where to turn.

“I have a family doctor but he refuses to take the baby as a patient, which I totally understand because he says he doesn’t specialize in pediatrics,” said Belmonte. “In our province, it’s ridiculous to get a doctor, to be seen by a doctor.”

READ MORE: Mother suffers nightmare ordeal to get her sick baby treated in Montreal

The first-time mother stumbled upon KixCare. It’s a way for parents to get a quick appointment with a pediatrician.

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Co-founder Dr. Harley Eisman, who is also the medical director of the Children’s Clinic, says Kixcare was founded in the midst of the pandemic.

“A lot of pediatrics is just really advice giving and observation,” he said. “So if you can do it in the comfort and safety of your own home, then it’s a win-win for everybody.”

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Code Blue: Can virtual health care ease Canada’s ER crisis?

The tele-medicine service can also be seen as an alternative as pediatric ERs continue to be overwhelmed.

READ MORE: Quebec sets up crisis management team as Montreal hospital ERs face overcrowding

Eisman says 811 is another good option for parents.

If you do not have a family doctor — you can dial 3 to access the primary care access point — known in French as the Guichet d’accès à la première ligne (GAP).

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But whether your child has a doctor or not, you can dial 1 to access a priority line available to all children 17 years old and under.

The average wait time is usually about 30 minutes, though that can vary during peak hours.

READ MORE: Quebec medical specialists sounding the alarm about crumbling healthcare system

“Most of the time — more than half of the time (the nurse) is going to refer the patients to the pharmacy or self-care — nasal hygiene or Tylenol,” said said Dr. Ariane Murray, a family doctor and head of Montreal’s regional department of general medicine. “Then they’ll tell you, for example, if it’s not better within 24-48 hours and if we need, we’ll send you for an appointment with a family doctor.”

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Murray noted, however, that the priority line isn’t available everywhere in Quebec. It is currently available in Montreal, Montérégie, Laval, Lanaudière and the Laurentians.

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She says the province is working on having the line accessible to everyone.

Doctors say though the viruses that are currently circulating are heavy, most are treated at home and without antibiotics.

Read more: Soaring RSV rates in parts of Quebec lead national cases, strain hospital staff

Read next: Driver arrested after bus crashes into Montreal-area daycare, injuring 8

Eisman says parents should follow their gut, but noted things to look out for include:

  • high fever in children who are under three months old
  • children who are extremely lethargic, not eating or drinking, and working hard to breathe
  • children who have underlying conditions should also be followed, if they are very sick.

Overall, health experts say to sit tight and try to use telemedicine options or 811, before seeking in-person medical attention.

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