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Quebec health minister asks nurses to come back to help struggling health-care system

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The situation in Quebec's health-care system "will continue to be difficult" in the coming weeks, Health Minister Christian Dubé warned Thursday.

He is calling on nurses to come and help out at busy Info-Santé 811 phone line, which received around 10,000 calls on Wednesday.

"The 811 line is working very well, but there is a lack of staff to answer the phone," said Dubé during a press scrum at the national assembly.

"I am inviting nurses who are retired, or who are in private agencies, to come and help us in the next few weeks. We could take up to 5,000 nurses."

The minister noted that the number of influenza cases in the province continues to rise, and he invited all Quebecers to get vaccinated, reminding them that the vaccine is now free.

He also urged parents to keep their children at home if they have flu-like symptoms. Currently, 120,000 children are absent from school, according to the most recent data.

During question period, Liberal health critic André Fortin criticized the minister for his poor results. "The emergency rooms are overflowing," he said.

"In Repentigny this morning ... it's 181 per cent occupancy in the ER, in Sorel, 194 per cent, in Buckingham, 208 per cent, and in Mont-Laurier, 300 per cent occupancy in the ER," he said. 

Fortin said that every day, up to 1,500 Quebecers were leaving the emergency room without seeing a doctor.

"This is the failure of the minister of health. To let people leave without care, it is not done,'' Fortin said.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published in French on Dec. 1, 2022. 

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