Royal Victoria Hospital restricts ambulance traffic to deal with bed closures

Since the Royal Victoria Hospital opened at the Glen site last spring, it has revised downwards the number of patients it can accept by ambulance three times.

MUHC continues to struggle to find ways to deal with funding cuts

The Royal Victoria Hospital currently only accepts 4.4 per cent of the ambulance traffic from Montreal and Laval. (Radio-Canada)

The Royal Victoria Hospital is accepting fewer and fewer patients by ambulance as it deals with bed closures. 

Since the hospital opened at the Glen site last spring, it has three times revised downwards the number of patients it can accept by ambulance. 

Currently, the Royal Victoria Hospital receives only about 4.4 per cent of ambulance patients from the Montreal and Laval areas.

"They're only receiving the patients that really need to be there," said Dr. Ewa Sidorowicz, director of professional services at the McGill University Health Centre (MUHC). 

That means the Royal Vic takes either patients who need specialized care or patients who are already followed by a doctor there.

The challenge of bed closures

As a tertiary care hospital within the MUHC, the Royal Vic has managed to whittle down the number of general cases that it accepts. 

Most of these patients are being taken to the Montreal General instead, with a smaller share going to Verdun Hospital.

Extra beds were opened at each site to accommodate the added traffic, said Sidorowicz, who chairs a task force that monitors ambulance quotas for Montreal-island hospitals.

At the start of the year, the MUHC was operating 853 beds. It was seeking $50 million in transitional funding from the province to keep those beds open.

(Helene Simard)

But the Health Ministry granted just $18 million of that request. As a result, the number of beds at the MUHC was dropped to 832 by the end of January. 

At the beginning of March the superhospital again had to reduce capacity, permanently closing another 33 beds in general medicine, surgery, pediatrics, mental health and in the women's mission.

A further 20 beds will be temporarily closed for 10 weeks this summer to help the MUHC meet its reduced budget.

More cuts to ambulance traffic?

In order to accommodate the reduced number of beds, the MUHC hopes to cut ambulance traffic even more.

"We're still very much in discussion with them to see if we can shed another 1.4 per cent of our quota to the network," said Sidorowicz, who says those discussions are not yet finalized.

A spokesperson for the CIUSSS Centre-Sud — the administrative body responsible for emergency services on the island — confirmed that discussions are ongoing with the Ministry of Health and the 17 emergency rooms that serve adult patients in Montreal and Laval. 

The goal is to make revisions based on the mission of each institution, their number of surgical and medical beds and the number of stretchers in their emergency rooms.


Leah Hendry is a TV, radio and online journalist with CBC Montreal Investigates. Contact her via our confidential tipline: 514-597-5155 or on email at


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