Original Published on Nov 17, 2022 at 06:49
Kateri Memorial Hospital Centre feels pressure as Quebec ERs bursting at seams
By Marc Lalonde, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
Kateri Memorial Hospital Centre (KMHC) is feeling as much pressure as the rest of the province’s public health-care system, the director of the hospital said earlier this week.
“I’m not sure if people realize the seriousness of the situation,” KMHC executive director Lisa Westaway said. “We’re overloaded. We’re unable to accommodate all the needs of everyone in the community. It’s not just here. It’s across the board.”
The presence of COVID-19 and a rise in other infections – including an early flu season – means extended waits to see a doctor are the norm, Westaway said.
“There are still 3,000 health-care workers that are still off work in the system. There are at least 4,000 people in Kahnawake who don’t have a family doctor. You can only see so many people,” Westaway said.
Westaway said one way locals can protect themselves is to wear masks in public spaces.
In addition, a pediatric walk-in clinic at Dix/30 in Brossard is an avenue locals can use to get their sick children in to see a doctor on an emergency basis, Westaway said.
With Quebec hospital emergency rooms bursting at the seams, the provincial government unveiled a three-part plan to alleviate the burden on hospital ERs.
Quebec Health minister Christian Dube unveiled the measures in the wake of a fall season that forced hospitals in Quebec to deal with a rise in the number of kids with respiratory infections. The overcapacity situation has forced many parents to leave the hospitals after several hours without their children ever having seen a doctor.
Dube said many ER visits are unnecessary and hopes to offer Quebecers some relief with his three-pronged plan, which starts with the return of the province’s “one call, one service” offer, which will be available through Info-Sante (811), including kids aged 0 to 17.
“What I’m saying today is that in most cases — and we realized this over the past few days — we know the solutions, but our challenge is to implement them across the network,” Dube said. “I think we must better co-ordinate our services before the patient ends up in hospital; if they get to hospital, how will that go; and when they leave, how can they leave as quickly as possible?”
On Tuesday, the ER at Anna-Laberge Hospital in Chateauguay – which operates the closest ER to the community – sat at 153 percent capacity, with 49 patients being monitored in a space that can accommodate 32 patients. In LaSalle, the situation is not much better, with the ER sitting at 133 percent capacity, with 20 patients occupying the 15 beds available.
Dube said Quebecers can help the situation by calling 811 if they are not sure about what they should do.
“I want to provide a statistic so people understand well: there is one person out of two that, at the moment, goes to the emergency room when they could have gone elsewhere,” he said. “That’s a lot. We have about 350,000 emergency visits per month. Imagine if we could better organize people at the hospital through services like the one we’re talking about today, especially in difficult periods with winter coming. This is a big effort we can make. So, people can help us by calling 811 and being directed to the correct place.”
Dube’s second solution is the creation of two clinics in the Montreal area staffed by nurse-practitioners. The first will open immediately through the CIUSSS de l’Est-de-l’Île-de-Montréal and the second will be run through the CIUSSS du Centre-Sud-de-l’Île-de-Montréal in a few weeks.
“I’m telling you, it isn’t a question of months, it’s a question of weeks,” Dubé said. “And I repeat: We could have done this a long time ago. And I look at us asking why we didn’t — it’s a question of implementation. We have the capacity to do it, and what I’m going to ensure with the team that’s here is that we’ll do these things, and that we’ll stop the bureaucracy or maybe the resistance from certain groups on this.”
The third solution involves post-hospital care and recovery. The province has identified 1,700 other beds in other health resources – and 58 percent of which are open at present, Half of those ‘alternative beds’ are in Montreal.
“I think that will make a very big difference,” Dube said.