Overcrowding at Emergency departments due to the seasonal flu or stomach flu: tips for avoiding the Emergency room during the holidays

Montreal, Thursday, December 20, 2012 – Each year during the holidays, Montreal hospitals face high volumes in their emergency rooms. Since the flu struck at the beginning of November and therefore early this year—and since the holidays are a time for all sorts of gatherings and get-togethers—higher numbers of both the seasonal flu and stomach flu are expected for the end of December. Many children and adults who go to Montreal emergency rooms suffer from mild flu symptoms, gastroenteritis and fever. This increase in patient numbers not only helps spread the virus but also puts pressure on emergency departments, which in turn increases wait times precisely for non-urgent cases. As a result, patients who are triaged as non-urgent will have to wait several hours before seeing a doctor.

“Children who need urgent care are treated as a priority. However, any patient who comes to the ER with a cold, the flu or the stomach flu should expect to wait several hours before seeing a doctor,” stated Dr. Harley Eisman, Director of the Emergency Department at The Montreal Children's Hospital of the MUHC.
Pediatric emergency departments in Montreal are staffed to treat 180 children per day; however, since December 1, the CHU Sainte-Justine emergency room has received an average of 255 patients per day, while the emergency room at The Montreal Children's Hospital of the MUHC has received an average of 300 patients per day. At the Hôpital Santa Cabrini, the number of emergency room visits for influenza-like illnesses (ILI) has increased by 200% in recent weeks, rising from an average of 6 to 12 cases per day.
Recovering at home is often the best solution
“It's important for parents to prepare for the flu season by finding out how to keep their children healthy, how to care for minor injuries and illnesses at home, and when to consult a doctor or go to the ER,” explained Dr. Benoît Bailey, Chief of the CHU Sainte-Justine Emergency Department. “Whether you are a child or an adult, mild flu symptoms, gastroenteritis and fever, which generally last between 3 to 5 days, can be treated at home. Emergency departments must be reserved for people who require urgent care. If you have the flu, drink a lot of water and rest. You can also get advice from your pharmacist on how to relieve symptoms,” concluded Dr. Irwin Kuzmarov, Director of Professional and Hospital Services at the Hôpital Santa Cabrini.
Alternatives to the emergency room
“If you're sick, you can find out how severe your symptoms are by first calling Info-Santé at 811. Info-Santé nurses are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to give you health advice and tell you when to see a doctor or other health professional. You can also talk to your family doctor, consult the frontline services at your CLSC, or go to a network clinic to see a doctor on a walk-in basis,” explained Ghyslaine Sénécal, Critical Care Coordinator for the Agence de la santé et des services sociaux de Montréal.
For the opening hours of network clinics and health and social services centres (CSSSs) in the Montreal area, visit the Portail Santé Montréal: www.santemontreal.qc.ca. Parents can also visit the websites of the CHU Sainte-Justine, The Montreal Children's Hospital and the Hôpital Santa Cabrini for valuable information and tips that will help them better assess their children's health condition: www.chu-sainte-justine.org; www.hopitalpourenfants.com; www.santacabrini.qc.ca.
For information about flu vaccinations in Montreal: http://www.dsp.santemontreal.qc.ca/vaccinationmontreal/flumontreal.html


– 30 –