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Quebec investing $23M to ease hospital overcrowding

Quebec is investing about $23 million annually in extra beds to ease the demand on emergency rooms, which are often overcrowded especially during flu season.

Some hospitals in Quebec are at double capacity and flu season is not even at its peak yet

Flu season is expected to peak in 3 weeks, further stressing hospitals. (Paul Chiasson/Canadian Press)

Quebec is investing about $23 million annually in extra beds to ease the demand on emergency rooms, which are often overcrowded especially during flu season.

Quebec Health Minister Gaétan Barrette made the announcement Friday, adding that $5.7 million of that annual amount will be invested before March 31, 2018.

He also said that hospitals would need to manage their workforce to ensure they are operating at full capacity until June 23, which marks the end of the school year.

The province's emergency rooms have been struggling to meet overwhelming demand as the flu sweeps across Quebec.

On the day of the announcement, Montreal's Jewish General Hospital was at 183 per cent capacity and the Royal Victoria hospital was at 142 per cent.

In the Quebec City area, Saint-François d'Assise Hospital was at 147 per cent and in the Outaouais region, Hull Hospital was at 180 per cent of its capacity. 

Demand expected to increase

Barrette expects the situation to be aggravated by flu season peaking in about three weeks.

He advised citizens to do their part to ease the burden on hospitals by being aware of when their symptoms warrant a visit to the doctor.

"Far too many people go immediately to the emergency room when there are other steps to take first," he said.

Quebec's Health Ministry recommends seeking medical assistance if you have difficulty breathing and a lingering fever in addition to the other flu symptoms.

Also, if a fever persists for more than four days and symptoms are not improving, that's when it could be time to seek medical help.

Anyone concerned about their health can first call Info-Santé (dial 811), where nurses are available to answer questions.

With files from CBC's Lauren McCallum