From overcrowded hospitals to a lack of family doctors, Quebec's health-care system is under immense strain.

With a provincial election on the horizon, patient advocates say they have the answer and they are calling on the political parties to take note.

Geneviève Dechêne is one of the few doctors in Montreal who treats palliative care patients at home.

"For targeted patients in their last year of life suffering from severe emphysema, heart failure, terminal cancer — those patients do not require to go back to the hospital. They have their diagnosis, they can be treated at home very efficiently," said Dr. Dechêne.

She said sending doctors to their homes not only frees up a strained hospital system but saves the province a lot of money.

"When you follow patients at home, the total cost for the year of care is 50 per cent less," she added.

She would like to see this system more widely implemented with emergency home care teams as it is done in other provinces.

Hospitals have been busting at the seams for many years, long before the pandemic hit. In 2017, the average Montreal wait time was more than 17 hours. Currently, it can take upwards of 19 hours to get a hospital bed.

The advocacy group Conseil pour la protection des malades (CPM) calls the current system in place inefficient.

The group's president, Paul Brunet, said 25 per cent of hospital beds are taken up by seniors who don't need to be in the emergency room and would much prefer receiving care at home.

"Emergency is for acute and urgent care; not for minor injuries, not for elders who could be visited at home less costly for a doctor," Brunet said.

He adds that half of the calls to ambulances are from people who don't need to go to the ER, but to a specialist instead.

Gisele Tasse-Goodman, president of the seniors advocacy group Réseau FADOQ, said if provinces recruited more specialists, ambulances could bring patients to seek care outside of the emergency room.

"If we bring back more professionals from different sectors, this is feasible. It's up to the government now, the next government, to act and put forward an ambitious labour plan," she said Wednesday.

Earlier this year, Quebec did unveil a major reform to the health-care system focusing on reducing emergency wait times, improving access to front-line care, and better working conditions for nurses.

But these specialists say the plan doesn't go far enough, and they want elected leaders to look at sending doctors into homes and diverting ambulances away from the emergency room.