Stretcher occupancy rates are reaching peaks in many Quebec emergencies. Emergency physicians expect difficult days this week, but hope that the resumption of usual activities in hospitals and medical clinics on Wednesday will have helped reduce pressure in emergency rooms and traffic in waiting rooms. Because influenza is gaining ground in the province, according to the National Institute of Public Health of Quebec (INSPQ).
Emergencies are overflowing in Quebec. The average occupancy rate on stretchers stood at 147% on Wednesday afternoon, according to the Index Santé website. In the Montreal region, this reached 261% at the Royal Victoria Hospital, 243% at the Jewish General Hospital, 193% at the LaSalle Hospital, 187% at the Lakeshore General Hospital and 188% at Verdun hospital. In Lanaudière, it was around 215%. This percentage was 209% at the Suroît hospital and 178% at the Anna-Laberge hospital, in Montérégie. It was close to 200% at the Saint-Eustache hospital, in the Laurentians.
The Dr Gilbert Boucher, president of the Association of Emergency Medicine Specialists of Quebec, explains this situation by various factors, including the spread of influenza. More and more seniors affected by the flu end up in emergency rooms and must be hospitalized. “We have really entered the peak of the increase in the virus,” he notes. We hope that there will not be too many elderly people and senior centers who will be hit. »
According to the INSPQ, the influenza virus gained ground during the holiday season. During the week ending December 30, 19.67% of cases of respiratory infections tested were positive for influenza (compared to 15.5% the previous week) and 7.25% for respiratory syncytial virus (9, 1% the previous week). The COVID-19 positivity rate stood at 15.9% (20.6% the previous week).
These infections can lead to a stay of two or three days in hospital when they affect seniors or people with another illness, indicates the DD Judy Morris, president of the Association of Emergency Physicians of Quebec. “They have trouble staying up and eating,” she said. They drop pressure. » They can then fall and injure themselves.
January 3, always busy day
The DD Karine Plouffe, emergency doctor and co-head of the Saint-Eustache emergency room, is not surprised by the overflow in the emergency rooms on January 3, in the middle of the respiratory virus season. “It’s often one of the busiest days of the year in all emergency rooms in Quebec,” she notes. This year is no exception. » Activities are slowing down in hospitals due to staff vacations. “The exams are not done immediately because it is a holiday,” she cites as an example.
However, the capacity of hospital beds is already limited due to the critical shortage of staff. “Our situation is still stretched to the maximum,” recalls the DD Judy Morris. We don’t have much room for maneuver in normal times. »
Patients who need to be hospitalized are stuck in the emergency room due to a lack of beds on the upper floors. These beds are occupied by patients who no longer require acute care but who are waiting for a place in an accommodation environment (in a CHSLD or intermediate resources, for example) or in a rehabilitation center. As of December 15, these users occupied 13.4% of hospital beds, according to the Ministry of Health and Social Services (MSSS). The ministerial target is 8%. To achieve this, Quebec has entered into agreements with accommodation resources to open 200 places for seniors waiting for a CHSLD. He says he is in the process of opening 300 more in the coming months.
The emergency crisis unit – reaactivated in December — also met during the holiday season, as well as on Wednesday. “There is no miracle solution”, warns the Dr Boucher, who is one of them. The specialist doctor, however, senses a mobilization within the MSSS troops and establishment management during the Christmas break. “A few years ago, for two weeks, there was no one answering their phone at the Ministry of Health. And even at the hospital management, not many people responded. This year, people are available, they are there to help us. »