Health

Montreal doctors urge parents to keep kids away from crowded ERs if they can

If your child is sick — but doesn’t require immediate care — avoid going to the emergency room this holiday season, staff at two Montreal pediatric hospitals said on Wednesday. 

A cocktail of respiratory viruses has been sickening adults and children alike in Quebec, placing a strain on Quebec’s emergency rooms.

But doctors from the Montreal Children’s Hospital and the Sainte-Justine Hospital said that patients with cold and flu symptoms, especially mild ones, should expect to wait several hours before seeing a doctor in the ER. 

“Mild flu symptoms, gastroenteritis and fever, which generally last three to five days, can be treated at home,” Dr. Antoni D’Angelo, the medical chief of the Sainte-Justine Hospital’s emergency room said in a statement. 

“When in doubt, you can consult your community pharmacist for prompt advice from a health professional. If symptoms persist, a consultation with a physician remains the preferred option.”

D’Angelo joined Dr. Laurie Plotnick, the medical director of the Montreal Children’s Hospital emergency room, at a press conference on Wednesday morning to urge parents to avoid an emergency room visit with their children unless their condition required immediate care. 

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“For children who are not seriously ill or injured, other solutions can be considered, such as the 811 line, or walk-in clinics,” D’Angelo said.

Health Minister Christian Dubé, speaking to reporters on Tuesday to address the deaths of two adults who died in the Anna-Laberge Hospital’s emergency room, in Châteauguay, Que., last week, said wait times could be long on the 811 Info-Santé line because of staffing problems caused by public sector strikes.

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But it would still be better to wait on the phone for a prolonged period than head to an emergency room, he said. 

The majority of hospital emergency rooms in Montreal were over 100 per cent capacity on Wednesday morning, according to the Bonjour-Santé website. The Montreal Children’s Hospital was at 150 per cent capacity.

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