By Gordon Lambie
Local Journalism Initiative
Despite concerns recently expressed in community about service cutbacks, the CIUSSS de l’Estrie – CHUS held a press conference on Tuesday to underline the fact that the Coaticook hospital emergency department is not being closed.
“There is no question of closing the Coaticook emergency department,” said Karine Duchaineau, Deputy Director of the program for general and specialized physical health with the CIUSSS de l’Estrie – CHUS. Duchaineau said that although the hospital has been experiencing service disruptions and changes to its hours since the summer, these have been as a result of a shortage of labour and an effort to follow the level of service designated for the hospital by the ministry of health.
The director pointed out that although the Coaticook emergency department has offered longer hours in the past, it is officially designated to offer only 12 hours of service per day. She acknowledged that the Hospital is not meeting even that target, but argued that is a temporary issue linked to a labour shortage.
Duchaineau shared that 75 per cent of the people seen in the emergency department in Coaticook in the years prior to the pandemic came with what are considered low-priority or non-emergency health issues, and added that about half of all people coming to the hospital were doing so from outside of the Coaticook regional health network (RLS). This, she said, places a draw on the limited resources in the community to resolve issues that should be getting treated elsewhere.
With regard to where that ‘elsewhere’ should be, the deputy director encouraged people to speak to their family doctors or, for those who do not have one, to call InfoSante at 811. She acknowledged that these are not perfect options, but suggested that making use of all of the resources available through the health network to try to ensure that emergency serves remain available for the people who need them most.
Dr. Marie-Maud Couture, chief of emergency medicine with the CIUSSS shared that the facility is not equipped to handle the most severe of emergencies anyway. While she emphasized that someone in an emergency situation should always go to the nearest hospital or call 911 as quickly as possible, Couture said that people in need of serious medical interventions have always been transferred from Coaticook to Sherbrooke.
“When someone thinks they might be experiencing a medical emergency, it is important to go to the hospital or call 911 right away, but there are many situations where another service could be chosen,” the doctor said, noting that the region’s emergency departments have, for example, seen a larger number of people show up to try to get a COVID-19 test in recent weeks; a service that they do not offer. “Even if you do not have a family doctor, if you call 811 they can set you up with an appointment at a medical clinic that offers drop-in services.”
Regarding the Coaticook situation specifically, Duchaineau said that there is a meeting planned regarding the status of emergency services in the region with local elected officials before the end of 2021, and a public consultation planned in the community in the early weeks of 2022.
The Province of Quebec reported 784 new cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday, bringing the total number of people infected to 448,171 with 7,913 active cases. There were three new deaths recorded, for a total of 11,579 since the start of the pandemic.
The number of hospitalizations in the province increased very slightly, to 227, but the number of people in intensive care went up by six to reach 51.
The INSPQ report from the Eastern Townships on Tuesday listed 1,134 active cases, a slight decrease from the number reported on Monday by the regional public health department.
There were fifteen people hospitalized in the region due to the virus, three of whom were in intensive care.
As of Monday 12 per cent of children aged 5-11 in the province had received a first dose of vaccine, accounting for 81,221 children. Overall first-dose coverage across the province is at 85 per cent, taking the new eligible age group into account, with second-dose coverage at 81 per cent.