811 pediatric line extended across Quebec as ERs face ‘difficult’ holiday season

Click to play video: 'Quebec expands 811 pediatric line to help ease burden on emergency rooms'
Quebec expands 811 pediatric line to help ease burden on emergency rooms
WATCH: Quebec emergency rooms are still operating at record high levels, and there are no signs that the situation will ease up. With the holiday season just a few days away, health minister Christian Dubé announced a few more measures that he's hoping will help. Global's Felicia Parrillo reports – Dec 21, 2022

Quebec’s health minister says the “one call, one service” 811 hotline is now accessible across the province so parents of sick children can seek medical advice and hopefully avoid overcrowded emergency rooms.

“I think parents will appreciate being able to call 811, and if needed, get an appointment so their kids are seen more quickly,” Christian Dubé told reporters Wednesday.

Greater Montreal was the first area to have the pediatric service and it was then made available in the Laurentians and Outaouais regions. Dubé says giving Quebecers the option to talk to a nurse on the phone has helped ease the pressure on overburdened emergency departments.

The health minister had set up a crisis management team as ER numbers swelled in the fall, especially in Montreal’s pediatric hospitals where respiratory viruses gained steam.

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The province will also open a total of five clinics led by nurse practitioners by the end of December, he added. In early November, the government had initially announced the creation of two clinics, but added more in the weeks that followed.

There are around 10,000 emergency room visits a day in Quebec — around the same as this time last year, according to Dubé. It’s not perfect, he said, but without the crisis team’s plan that number would be significantly higher.

“To be capable to stay at the same level given the important and difficult context we’re in, I think that’s an accomplishment,” Dubé said.

But even with those measures, Dubé urged Quebecers to exercise caution during Christmas-time gatherings so as to limit the spread of viruses like COVID-19, influenza and RSV. Health officials ask anyone who feels unwell to stay home.

“I want to remind people that the holidays will be difficult and it will be particularly difficult in our emergency rooms,” he said.

Dubé said he expects an uptick in hospitalizations following the holidays because there will be more socializing and events during the busy holiday season.

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The province’s emergency departments remained overwhelmed Wednesday. Index Santé, a website that tracks the occupancy rates in hospitals, reported ERs across Quebec were at 125 per cent capacity on average shortly before noon. Some areas are harder hit than others, however.

In Montreal, some hospitals are worse off than others. The Jewish General Hospital’s emergency room capacity stood at 179 per cent and Montreal General Hospital at 155 per cent.

The city’s two pediatric ERs — the Montreal Children’s and Sainte-Justine — were at 92 and 144 per cent occupancy, respectively.

with files from The Canadian Press

Click to play video: 'François Legault feeling optimistic after Montreal meeting with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau'
François Legault feeling optimistic after Montreal meeting with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau

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