'We need it now': As ER visits among children rise, Montreal parents want hotline reinstated
Montreal public health officials are considering whether to bring back a special hotline for families with sick children to get them speedy appointments with a doctor as the city's hospitals see an increase in visits to pediatric emergency rooms.
The "one call, one appointment" hotline was launched on Sept. 28, 2021 and was a valuable lifeline for parents of kids under 17 years old with non-urgent illnesses during the fourth wave of the pandemic when hospitals were under increased strain, they say.
A short phone call would get a parent a doctor's appointment in a few hours, in most cases.
But as ERs are seeing more children show up with non-urgent conditions, usually as a last-resort option for parents who couldn't find a doctor, there are calls to bring back the phone service, which ended on March 31.
Associate director To Nhu Nguyen at the DRMG, who works on access to front-line services, confirmed there's a recent rise in pediatric ER visits.
Nguyen told CTV News Tuesday that "nothing is off the table" when asked if the program will be reinstated.
"If we can replicate learnings from the measures that we tested during the pandemic, such as the 'one call, one appointment,' we obviously will resume it if the need arises," she said in an interview.
The service was always meant to be a temporary fix to ease pressure at over-capacity ERs,she said.
'I WANTED TO SCREAM'
Some Montreal parents want public health to bring the service back with more urgency, describing lengthy waits in recent weeks in the city's children's hospitals.
"It worked. Why not bring it back? And we need it now, because there is a major service gap," said Vivien Carli.
Carli said she waited for a "gruelling" 16 hours in the emergency room on May 9 with her 10-month-old son, who at the time had a three-day fever.
She told CTV News she checked with about a dozen clinics if they could see her son after speaking with a nurse at Info-Santé 811, but she couldn't find an appointment within the next 36 hours.
That's when she decided to go to the Montreal Children's Hospital out of desperation, even though she knew her son's condition wasn't an emergency.
"Within, I think, the 10-hour mark, I thought I wanted to cry. I wanted to scream," she said. "It was not just myself. Many parents were extremely upset, many parents left not knowing what to do and just couldn't endure it."
Having returned home from the long hospital visit, she posted about her experience on a Facebook group for Montreal moms and was soon overwhelmed by the response. She said some parents reported waiting up to 23 hours in the ER a week earlier.
"They didn't know what to do. They couldn't leave because they felt that they were a bad parent for leaving. But they have no option," she said.
"Parents... told me they were crying in the emergency room, they were desperate," she said. "No one was there to help them and there was nothing they could do."
Alexandra Bogdanova went through a similar experience with her three-year-old son on May 4.
She went to the Montreal Children's Hospital after her son had a fever for five days and couldn't find an appointment at any of the clinics nearby.
She said she waited more than nine hours before seeing a doctor.
"There was some point when I actually started to cry," she told CTV on Tuesday. "I couldn't take it anymore. It was crazy. It was huge amounts of people, a huge amount of sick kids."
After finally seeing a doctor, her son was prescribed some antibiotics. But after finishing the seven-day drug regimen, the fever came back, she said.
"Traumatized" from the ER wait, she decided to go to a private clinic this time and pay $360 out of pocket for a doctor, who prescribed a stronger dose of antibiotics, which did the trick.
Because of the "anger" and "frustration" she went through and hearing other parents' stories, Carli wanted to do something about it, so she started an online petition.
She also wrote an open letter to Premier François Legault and Health Minister Christian Dubé, pleading for the "immediate" reinstatement of the hotline.
The service was widely considered a success. In about six months, it helped parents book 45,000 appointments with an average wait time on the phone of just over two minutes, according to Montreal Public Health.
More importantly, Nguyen said, it helped reduce the volume in the ER at the Montreal Children's Hospital and Ste-Justine Hospital by 15 to 20 per cent. Overall, she hailed the program as a win.
"If you spoke with emergency department staff and emergency department physicians, what they'll tell you is that that that non-negligible percentage allowed them to really focus on patients who really needed emergency-room care," Nguyen said.
"And it helped with staff well-being, it helped with patients who really needed emergency care and it helped with admissions."
The François Legault government announced a major pre-election reform of health-care services, including a plan to set up a phone line, called GAP, to put people in touch with health-care professionals for consultations. It has not yet been launched.
By Tuesday evening, Carli's petition had collected 882 signatures.
"It’s been frustratingly difficult and slow to find help for my infant and three year old since my paediatrician [sic] retired and we lost access to our emergency kids clinic," wrote one person who signed the petition.
"When we have an issue that is urgent but not an emergency we have nowhere to turn to. This is unacceptable for our kids."
"This service is needed now!" wrote another person. "It only makes good sense to keep this as a normal practice."
Montreal Top Stories
CTVNews.ca Top Stories
Highland Park's police chief said the 22-year-old man identified as a person of interest in the shooting that killed at least six people, wounded at least 30 and sent hundreds of people fleeing from an Independence Day parade in suburban Chicago on Monday has been taken into custody.
The 17-year-old daughter of the Toronto Blue Jays' first base coach died in a 'terrible accident' while tubing in the U.S. this weekend.
A 41-year-old man will be charged with kidnapping and rape after an Edmonton girl who was missing for more than a week was found, Oregon City Police said.
COVID-19 cases are rising again in Canada, with the two fast-spreading Omicron sub-variants known as BA.4 and BA.5 to blame. CTVNews.ca has a guide to what you need to know about the new variants.
One of the twin brothers who was killed in a shootout with police outside a bank in Saanich, B.C., last week had applied to join the Canadian Armed Forces but was rejected, a military spokesperson confirmed Monday.
The federal government says it has signed a $20-billion final settlement agreement to compensate First Nations children and families harmed by chronic underfunding of child welfare.
Travellers might not have any control over long lines and cancelled flights, but there are ways to minimize luggage disasters. From tracking devices for your luggage to packing light, here are some tips and tricks for your next trip through the airport.
Canadian airlines and airports claimed top spots in flight delays over the July long weekend, notching more than nearly any other around the world.
Toronto must review 'clean-shave' N95 mask policy after Sikh workers laid off, demoted: advocacy group
A national Sikh advocacy organization said it is prepared to take the City of Toronto to the provincial human rights tribunal if a reasonable resolution cannot be reached about its so-called 'clean-shave' policy.
Ontario has entered a summer wave of COVID-19 as hospitalizations and cases slowly creep upwards, infectious experts say.
The CAT ferry, which sails between Yarmouth, N.S., and Bar Harbour, Maine, has sold more than 20,000 tickets so far this year, that’s up from the 15,100 tickets sold as of June 7.
Canada Day weekend fireworks have sparked more calls to either regulate or ban backyard fireworks displays in Nova Scotia.
Over 90,000 Prince Edward Island residents will see a top-up in their bank accounts to help alleviate the pressure of record inflation rates affecting the cost of living in the province.
Huron County OPP are investigating a fatal single vehicle crash that occurred west of Exeter late Monday afternoon.
One person has died and four others — including three children — have been taken to hospital following a head on collision in the Township of Blandford-Blenheim, Ont. Monday afternoon.
A 38-unit affordable housing project is moving ahead in downtown Sudbury.
Love is in the air for Ontario's turtle population and a group called the Turtle Guardians says they've been busy dealing with the influx.
A former employee at the Rexall Pharmacy on Bancroft Drive in Sudbury pleaded guilty Monday to writing fake fentanyl prescriptions worth more than $1.5 million.
Alberta RCMP are investigating a serious incident in Sundre that occurred at a local business early Monday morning.
It's been a wet summer so far in Calgary and the surrounding areas, with lots of rain and cooler temperatures.
One person is dead and several homes were evacuated following a Monday morning shooting in a northeast Calgary neighbourhood.
'The interest just completely faded after the arrest': Cambridge teen’s dream of going to NHL derailed by bullying, harassment, alleges lawsuit
A Cambridge family has launched a $5.5-million civil lawsuit against Victus Academy, an elite hockey prep school in Kitchener, and three of its students.
Up in smoke: Recent cannabis store closures in Uptown Waterloo could be signs of oversaturated market
Cannabis shops cropped up quickly across Waterloo region, but it seems some are now closing shop shortly after they arrived. At least one expert says the shift could point to signs of saturation as the heavily competitive fight for cannabis sales takes its toll.
What ended up being a false alarm saw Waterloo regional police respond to a weapons call at a Kitchener encampment with guns drawn on Saturday.
An unexpected move to pay British Columbia’s family doctors for the extra time required to assess high-risk COVID-19 patients has a physicians’ group urging the province to recognize many others deserve more time with their primary doctor as well.
With researchers anticipating another COVID-19 wave this summer, B.C. health officials are once again urging the public to get vaccinated – especially the 1.3 million residents sitting on unused booster invitations.
A B.C. man's claim that he did not pay an invoice for the installation of a wall-mounted TV because he somehow suffered a head injury due to shoddy work has been dismissed by a provincial tribunal.
Two people are in hospital with gunshot wounds after an incident in northeast Edmonton Monday evening.
An Edmonton flight bound for Halifax never made it to its destination after a landing gear sustained damage during takeoff Monday afternoon.
Windsor’s largest water park, Adventure Bay reopened Monday afternoon after sitting closed to the public for more than two years.
The mother of a 30-year-old woman who died while in custody inside Windsor’s South West Detention Centre is back home in the Northwest Territories following an inquest into her daughter’s death.
Border City Boxing Club owner Josh Canty is looking forward to giving local boxers a chance to get back in the ring as Rumble On The River returns to Windsor July 31.
A man from the White Butte area died following a two vehicle crash between a semi and a compact SUV southeast of Regina on Thursday.
A 17-year-old boy is the second teenager to be charged in the city’s sixth homicide of 2022, the Regina Police Service (RPS) said in a news release.
Ottawa Public Health says Ottawa is entering a new wave of COVID-19, saying indicators show a rising level of transmission in the community.
Ottawa paramedics say an elderly woman is in hospital following a collision Monday morning.
A seven-year-old boy is dead after an incident on the river over the weekend.
Living Sky Wildlife Rehabilitation staff are getting a crash course in caring for an animal they've never had before — a badger.