Montreal hospital emergency rooms are overcrowded with many well over capacity because of the flu.

With so many people showing up with flu symptoms, heading to the hospital ER could face a long wait. 

  • Royal Victoria Hospital : 127% capacity
  • Jewish General Hospital : 142% capacity
  • Lakeshore General : 145% capacity
  • Verdun Hospital : 169% capacity

“We always have to prioritize the people who are potentially going to die soon,” explained Dr. Zach Levine with the Royal Victoria Hospital. “So it's kind of a good sign if you wait 12 hours. The triage nurse has determined that you're not dying immediately so you can wait.” 

Doctors are urging people to use clinics before having to wait for hours in a hospital emergency room. 

“Even since before Christmas we've been very busy,” said Lise Tessier, head nurse with the Queen Elizabeth Health Clinic. “We've seen a lot of little kids that are sick, a lot of influenza type things.“ 

People in Canada are getting a particularly strong strain of Influenza A, and so far this year’s flu vaccine hasn't been very effective. 

According to Dr. Levine, even having the partial protection of the shot can make the flu less severe.

If possible, health professionals recommend riding the virus out or calling Info Sante if you’re worried. 

However, certain symptoms should be checked out immediately, especially when it involves children or the elderly. 

“Short of breath, hard time breathing, if they can't take any fluids down, if they're having excessive amounts of diarrhea,” said Tessier. “The little kids you really have to watch because they can't tell you but if you see they're becoming very lethargic they need to be checked out.” 

Doctors warn the flu virus thrives in cold dry weather and can stay on certain surfaces for up to three days. For this reason it’s important to frequently wash your hands. 

“It doesn't have to the person you just saw and he coughed,” said Dr. Levine. “It could be you touched a doorknob yesterday and then you touch your mouth or scratch your eye.” 

Flu season can last until April so Dr. Levine says it’s not too late to get the flu shot.