“It’s the only place everyone can go”

“It’s the only place everyone can go”

People without family doctors among those filling ERs

By Ruby Pratka

Local Journalism Initiative

For weeks, emergency rooms across the Eastern Townships have been full to overflowing. On Jan. 14, according to the health data website IndexSanté, Granby Hospital had an occupation rate of 145 per cent, the Hôtel-Dieu de Sherbrooke 105 per cent, the Fleurimont Hospital 104 per cent and Brome-Missisquoi-Perkins (BMP) Hospital 81 per cent – down from 131 per cent two days earlier.

Health Minister Christian Dubé told reporters at a Jan. 13 press conference that the situation in the province’s emergency rooms would “continue to be difficult” in the coming days and weeks. Dr. Gilbert Boucher, president of the Association des spécialistes en médecine d’urgence du Québec, said emergency room personnel “are struggling to provide adequate service to the population.”

“We are always there for you if you’re sick, [and] urgent cases won’t wait, but if you are low priority, you probably won’t be seen,” Boucher added.

Dubé said about half of the 10,000 people seeking care in the province’s emergency rooms every day are patients with minor health issues, who should ideally be treating their symptoms at home or seeking care or health advice elsewhere – from a family doctor, a pharmacist or a nurse through the province’s 811 helpline.

Two members of a Waterloo-area family wish it was that easy. Nadine and her daughter Abbie, who asked that their last names not be used, are among the nearly 540,000 Quebecers – including more than 64,000 Townships residents – waiting for a family doctor.

Both have chronic health conditions – Nadine, 46, is a cancer survivor with a liver condition and Abbie, 28, is diabetic. Their family doctor retired more than four years ago and was replaced by a doctor who took fewer patients. The new doctor “took my five-year-old son, but not me,” Nadine said. “Knock on wood, so far I haven’t been sick, but if I was, I would have to go to the emergency room and hopefully wait less than 12 hours.”

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