MONTREAL - It's a New Year, but at the Royal Victoria Hospital and others across Montreal, it's the same old story.

Emergency rooms are operating at 50 per cent above capacity as people are flocking to hospitals with minor ailments, and wait times are becoming excessively long for people with real emergencies.

"Combine the fact that people have been away and they're back, the fact that not all doctors offices are open, the fact that people's medical problems have sort of accumulated (because) it's family and it's the holidays and they don't want to get care," Dr. Mitch Shulman, an emergency room doctor at the Royal Victoria, told CTV Montreal's Paul Karwatsky. "You put it all together and you always get this."

A sudden outbreak of gastroenteritis and influenza over the holiday period only made matters worse this year, with St. Mary's, Verdun and Lakeshore among the hardest hit.

"You've got a lot of minor problems in there for people who can't access a family doctor," said Romaina Kahmal, a nurse at the Royal Victoria.

The result is an emergency room full of coughing patients looking for any kind of medical attention, which affects the more serious cases in a bad way.

One woman told Karwatsky that she was waiting for treatment on a concussion, a wait that had reached seven hours, and counting.

"The doctors and nurses are just going by and I'm hailing them down and they're just walking by me," she said.

Kahmal says the situation is out of their control, because there's only so much that can be done when there aren't enough people to handle the load.

"There's always a shortage of staff," she said. "Always."

It's the sad reality of an annual New Year's story that often seems to take Montreal hospitals by surprise.