The situation in Quebec’s health-care system “will continue to be difficult” over the next weeks, the province’s health minister said Thursday.
Christian Dubé called on nurses to come and lend a hand to Info-Santé, the province’s 811 health hotline. It received no less than 10,000 calls on Wednesday.
“The 811 (line) works very well, but we lack staff to answer the phone,” Dubé told reporters at the provincial legislature.
“I invite nurses who are retired, or who work for private agencies, to come and help us in the coming weeks. We can use up to 5,000 nurses,” he added.
Dubé said the number of influenza cases in the province continues to climb. He urged Quebecers to get vaccinated, saying the vaccine is now free of charge.
He also urged parents to keep their children home if they have flu-like symptoms. The most recent data shows 120,000 children are absent from school.
During question period, Liberal health critic André Fortin criticized Dubé for his poor results and said emergency rooms are overflowing.
“In Repentigny this morning, Madame Speaker, it’s 181-per cent occupancy in the emergency room,” he said. “In Sorel, 194 per cent. In Buckingham, 208 per cent and in Mont-Laurier, 300-per cent occupancy in the emergency room.”
Fortin said that every day, up to 1,500 Quebecers leave a hospital emergency room without seeing a doctor.
“It’s the failure of the minister of health. We don’t let people go without receiving care,” he said.
— with files from Global News’ Kalina Laframboise