MONTREAL—Santa-Cabrini Hospital was a popular place to be on New Year’s Eve.

“A kind of diarrhea, stomach pain I never had before. I called the ambulance. Now I'm waiting and waiting,” said Tony Carvalho as he waited at the hospital.

Santa-Cabrini is just one of several Montreal-area hospitals reporting overcrowded emergency rooms. Regional health officials say the ERs are operating, on average, about one-third above capacity. Santa-Cabrini is also dealing with a lot of elderly patients.

“Most of our patients here are 75 and over and when they're already sick and they get the influenza, it's even worse,” said Dr. Frank Giuristante, an ER coordinator at Santa-Cabrini.

Elderly patients recover in three to five days, while younger patients can be in and out in 24 hours.

Call it Christmas fallout, doctors at Santa-Cabrini say one of the reasons its ER is overcrowded is the amount of family get-togethers between Christmas and New Year's.

On New Year's Eve the hospital's ER was running at twice its normal capacity

The best way to avoid getting sick or passing on your germs is through prevention: washing your hands frequently and wearing a mask to slow the airborne spread of any virus.

Maisonneuve-Rosemont Hospital's ER was also overcrowded. Like many local hospitals, they asked the public to use clinics if possible or call Info-Sante at 811.

An early flu season and more psychiatric calls over Christmas are some reasons calls to Urgences-Sante have spiked over the holidays.

“Call volumes are at record numbers, the kind of volume we haven’t; seen over the last 10 or 15 years,” said Urgences-Sante spokesman Bob Lamle.

New Year's Eve can be an especially tough night and Lamle has a simple message to avoid overcrowded ERs.

“Don't drink and drive. That usually results in some very dire consequences. You know every New Year’s Eve we see some pretty serious car accidents,” said Lamle.

Something sobering to think about as the New Year dawns.