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Montreal ERs are near capacity with delayed health problems, a worrying sign as second wave looms
MONTREAL -- Montreal’s first wave of COVID-19 may be all but over, but there’s a second kind of wave arriving.
The people flocking to the city’s emergency rooms don’t have COVID-19, for the most part, but they have an accumulation of months’ worth of other problems—while staff is still short.
"There's kind of a very strange mix of patients,” the medical coordinator of the McGill University Health Centre, Frederic Dankoff, told CTV News.
“There's those that are there because they've lost resources, whether it's the family doctor [or other health services]... and unfortunately there's another group of people who are presenting very late for signifiant diseases,” he said.
“We're seeing things we haven't seen in a long time, like heart attacks that end up with muscle ruptures. It's a bit of an unfortunate side effect of the COVID issue.”
The MUHC, the Lakeshore and the Royal Victoria are all running at or close to capacity today.
What’s not helping is that there are fewer emergency beds now, because of the need to keep people distanced as an infection control measure.
"They went from four-bedded rooms to two, or two-bedded rooms to one,” explains Dankoff.
Another big problem are the 5,000 workers who are still off the job, either because they are recovering from COVID-19 or as a preventative measure.
"Our health-care professionals are exhausted,” says Roberto Bomba of the FIQ health-care workers’ union.
“They gave their all during the last few weeks—there's a cry for help.”
Quebec’s health system was already stretched, meaning people are sometimes forced to go to the wrong level of service for their complaint.
Both the previous and current governments promised a family doctor for every Quebecer. But patient advocates say most people who come to the ER are still not truly emergencies, but rather people who don’t have many places to go.
“If you still have that kind of crowd, you're not doing the job,” said Paul Brunet of the Conseil pour la protection des malades.
A spokesperson for the provincnial health minister told CTV they consider things under control in the majority of hospitals, but that in those that have been running over 100 per cent capacity, they’re following up.
The biggest concern, of course, is what would happen if a second wave of COVID-19 hit while the ERs are still this crowded.