10 hour-wait at Montreal Children's for head injury leaves Laval mom furious

A Laval mother has filed an ombudsman complaint about how her 12-year-old daughter's head injury was dealt with by the Montreal Children's Hospital.

MUHC says ER overcrowded with flu patients, triage process in place

Judy Schafer says she had to wait 10 hours in the emergency room with her daughter who had a head injury before being seen by doctor. (Sarah Leavitt/CBC)

A Laval mother has filed an ombudsman complaint with the Montreal Children's Hospital about how her 12-year-old daughter's head injury was dealt with earlier this week.

After her daughter fell down and hit her head, Judy Schafer took her to the Children's emergency room. When they arrived, the waiting rooms were full and a lineup extended out the door.

Schafer says she grabbed the nurse who was checking in on patients in the lineup to explain what was wrong with her daughter.

"We sat in the waiting room all day. Her headache was progressing. She was not feeling well, she was getting nauseous," Schafer said.

"It's a head injury, not a runny nose."

When they did see a doctor, Schafer's daughter Alexandra was diagnosed with a concussion.

Flu season overcrowding ERs

The McGill University Health Centre won't comment on specific cases but Stephanie Tsirgiotis, a spokesperson, says waits have been longer.

"As a result of the flu, the emergency department at the Montreal Children's Hospital has been dealing with an extremely high volume of patients, which has led to longer wait times," she said.

"On average, we see 220 patients a day, but recently, that number has been closer to 300."
Not able to use her computer or watch TV because of a concussion, Alexandra Floyd says her recovery isn't exactly fun. (Sarah Leavitt/CBC)

Tsirgiotis explained that each patient that arrives is first seen by a nurse to determine their level of priority.

"In general terms, if there is suspicion of concussion but the symptoms are getting better, it is not considered a medical emergency," she said.

How the triage process works

The MUHC follows standards set by the Canadian triage and acuity scale.

When a patient arrives at the ER, they first see a nurse who does a brief pre-triage evaluation and designates a priority level. The patient then goes into triage based on that priority before seeing the doctor.

When the ER is overcrowded, another step is added.

"This overcrowding creates a backup at pre-triage where families line up to speak with the pre-triage nurse," said Tsirgiotis.

"When the nurse at pre-triage observes this, she steps out of the pre-triage room to have a visual contact of each patient waiting. The purpose is to identify any acutely sick child needing to see the physician immediately."

She said all other patients are then pre-triaged in order of arrival.

Patients are prioritized in order of urgent to least urgent based on their state. The Children's has more information on its website.