Quebec Health Minister Gaetan Barrette is injecting $100 million into health care to help relieve wait times in emergency rooms throughout Quebec.

Barrette made the announcement at a news conference in Quebec City Wednesday afternoon.

“What I'm announcing is not a one-time investment - it's a recurring investment over time. It's year after year,” said Barrette.

The funding will go toward creating 2,100 places in long-term care, mental health and convalescence facilities, so that patients will be moved out of ERs and into proper facilities.

Funding will likely also go to home care for patients who need regular treatment.

The funding breaks down as follows:

  • $55 million for 1,472 new spaces for seniors who need full-time care
  • $30.5 million for 446 new mental health spaces
  • $14.5 million for 207 rehabilitation and convalescence spaces

"Short-term hospital beds should be used for patients who require acute care, not for those requiring chronic or continuous care. Currently, users are occupying short-term beds when they should not. The addition of resources will make it possible to respond immediately to the needs of these people. In doing so, they will release beds in a hospital, allowing for more effective management of these beds," said Barrette in a news release.

Last week Barrette announced a dozen hospitals across Quebec would receive an extra $20 million to extend the working hours for operating rooms.

Parti Quebecois leader Jean-Francois Lisée was not impressed.

"Better than nothing, but it would have been much better not to cut. They've made surpluses on the backs of health care providers, patients, students, and now they're giving some of it back. So we'll take it, but we won't be fooled into thinking that it's Santa Claus coming with brand new gifts."

The leader of the CAQ said it seems the government is just throwing money around.

"The Couillard government doesn't have any plan in healthcare. I think that right now the first step must be to make sure that family doctors are available seven days a week," said Francois Legault.

The plan is based on a pilot project that has been running in the Lower St. Lawrence CIUSSS, which saw ER wait times drop from an average of 15 hours to 7.3 hours.

Emergency rooms are frequently crowded, or working over capacity, and struggle to find places to put patients.

In many cases that is because people go to ERs when it's not necessary, and would be better off going to their family doctor -- or seeing a doctor at a CLSC or similar clinic.

ER doctors say they are cautiously optimistic about the investment.

“All I can say is our patients need that improvement because they wait too long to have hospital beds. They wait 12-14 hours. The norm in Canada should be a one-hour wait to get access to a bed,” said Dr. Bernard Mathieu of the Quebec Association of Emergency Room Doctors.

The government is giving itself a year for this new system to be put in place, but many inside the health care system wonder if this will be enough.

At the MUHC for example, long-term care patients take up an average of 70 beds a day, and the administration wonders where they will go, because there is a chronic shortage of extended-care facilities in the West Island, a situation which also exists elsewhere in the province.

“One year is a bit long. If we could have these spaces before the flu season hits, that would be a great help for the hospitals,” said Mathieu.