Montreal

Relief for overcrowded emergency rooms too little too late, says nurses federation

"It's been since the beginning of December that we've been told that the flu is coming around earlier this year and that it's quite bad," said Denise Joseph, the vice president of the Quebec Nurses Federation.

25 clinics in Montreal adding 'capacity' as of next week

Quebec Health Minister Danielle McCann says she is asking clinics to add capacity during busy times as part of an effort she is calling "winter clinics." (Radio-Canada)

It could still be another week before overburdened emergency rooms see any form of relief in Quebec.

The province's new health minister Danielle McCann says the government has put a call out for clinics to add hours and personnel as part of a program she calls "winter clinics."

So far, only 25 institutions have volunteered to do so in Montreal as of next week. McCann says she hopes more in the province will come forward to "add capacity" during busy times, like nights and weekends.

People with the flu and other non-urgent ailments are asked to visit clinics when they can.

"Those clinics, ideally, should have started in December," McCann said in an interview on Radio-Canada's Gravel le matin.

But the Quebec Nurses Federation says the ministry should have done more and done it earlier. 

'It's an emergency'

"It's been since the beginning of December that we've been told that the flu is coming around earlier this year and that it's quite bad," said Denise Joseph, the federation's vice president. 

"And yet we have a government that is dragging on to put something in place. It's an emergency."

Emergency rooms have been packed in several regions of the province, as the number of flu cases and fractures spike. 

The busiest emergency room in the province is the Hôpital du Suroît in Valleyfield, which is at 255 per cent of its capacity. 

According to the provincial government's website tracking wait times, every hospital's ER in the Montérégie​ region is at more than 100 per cent capacity except for one. 

Joseph said she was disappointed the health minister postponed her promise to open special clinics in time for the winter flu season to next December. 

"We have a new health minister, we have a new government. They were supposed to put things in place. They knew what was going on, and we were hoping to have some results," she said. 

"They promised that they would stop the forced overtime for the nurses and the healthcare professionals," Joseph said, adding it's still happening.

McCann says more people should call the 8-1-1 telephone health service for advice on whether the hospital or a clinic would be more appropriate.

"The emergency room is not the entryway into the [healthcare] system," she said.

With files from Jay Turnbull and Radio-Canada

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