Flu, gastro cases flood Montreal hospitals

The Ste-Justine Hospital and the Montreal Children's Hospital are asking parents to keep their children at home if they have mild cold or flu symptoms, while the Maisonneuve-Rosemont hospital has put a temporary ban on visitors in an effort to limit exposure among patients.

ER directors at 2 children's hospitals urge parents to keep kids with fevers for fewer than 48 hours at home

The head of Ste-Justine's ER department said kids who have had a fever for fewer than 48 hours and who aren't experiencing respiratory distress should be kept home rather than be brought to the hospital. (Getty Images/Blend Images)

The heads of the ER departments at Ste-Justine Hospital and the Montreal Children's Hospital are asking parents to keep their children at home if they have mild cold or flu symptoms. 

Over the past two weeks, the city's two pediatric hospitals have been flooded with several hundred children with a cold or flu per day.

"These are record numbers for this time of year," said the head of Ste-Justine's ER department, Dr. Antonio D’Angelo.

D’Angelo said the additional patients could cause longer delays for people waiting to see a doctor.

"Our mission is to see the sickest patients, in categories one, two and three," D’Angelo said. "The others will wait several hours."

And that’s on top of exposing parents and children to other sick children in the waiting room.

The Maisonneuve-Rosemont hospital also decided to put a temporary ban on visitors in an effort to limit exposure to the flu among patients. There are certain exceptions, including one for parents who want to visit their newborn in the neonatal unit. 

Montreal Children's Hospital overcrowded

We have no added magic at the emergency department.- Dr. Harley Eismann, Montreal Children's Hospital ER director

Dr. Harley Eismann, ER director for the Montreal Children's Hospital, said his ER is overcrowded by about 100 patients on any given day. 

On some days, he said the number of children brought to the ER reaches 400.

He said children whose illnesses are deemed not urgent by triage nurses can end up waiting hours to be seen by a doctor as a result.

"It can be slightly frustrating at times because parents wait with their young children. They're frustrated as well," he said.

When to stay home, when to go to ER

D’Angelo said several viruses are already out in full force, including gastroenteritis and the flu.

According to him, a child who has had a fever for fewer than 48 hours and who can still play between spikes in the fever is not a "very sick" child. Rather, he recommends parents to keep their sick children at home and allow them to rest up.

Eismann concurs. 

"Our experience tells us that these are seasonal viruses, that what the children have is well-cared for at home. We have no added magic at the emergency department," he said.

However, children under the age of three months, as well as children who have had a fever for more than three days should head to the ER. Children experiencing respiratory problems and who are unable to stay hydrated should be brought to the emergency, as well.


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