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Quebec Emergency Room Congestion Is Wild Right Now & The Gov't Wants People To Avoid Them

A patient recently died following a 16-hour hospital wait, according to one doctor.

Senior Editor
Parked ambulance in a Montreal hospital garage.

Parked ambulance in a Montreal hospital garage.

Quebec's Ministry of Health (MSSS) has confirmed to MTL Blog that officials have launched an internal investigation into the death of a patient following a 16-hour hospital wait. A doctor at the Montérégie region's Barrie Memorial Hospital took to Twitter to share that patient's story, sparking outcry as many of the province's emergency rooms exceed capacity.

The ministry outlined the steps it's taking to address high Quebec emergency room occupancy and wait times. The first is to encourage Quebecers to seek alternative care if possible.

MSSS spokesperson Robert Maranda said that as many as 50% of emergency room visitors could instead use other front-line services, such as pharmacists or family doctors.

Behind the scenes, he added, overflowing ERs "receive support" from hospital administration and from a ministry task force dedicated to ER congestion management, the Comité ministériel de coordination du désencombrement des urgences.

Those are combined with what Maranda vaguely called "directives" that the ministry disseminates throughout the hospital network.

The spokesperson said that cocktail of solutions has proven successful in some hospitals.

But the global picture is still grim. As of October 24, the seven-day average of Quebec emergency room bed occupancy was 122.9% capacity, down slightly from the two-year high of 127.1% on October 18, which followed a general, though inconsistent, mount since January.

"The majority of Quebec's emergency departments are functioning well," Maranda said. "Where there are difficulties, we are taking the necessary steps to support facilities to improve their performance."

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