An influenza and gastroenteritis outbreak has stretched Montreal emergency rooms to 150 per cent capacity. According to the Montreal Health Agency, the worst hit hospitals are the Lakeshore, Royal Victoria, Montreal General, and the Santa Cabrini.
“Flu outbreaks are predictable, and what we are seeing this post-holiday is no different than what we see mid-winter,” said Harley Eisman of the McGill University Health Centre. “The issue this year is things started earlier in December. This is causing overcrowding in our Pediatric ER.”
The Montreal Public Health Protections Department is assuring the population that this is not a strain of the H1N1 pandemic but merely the standard seasonal flu that proves especially dangerous for high-risk patients such as seniors and infants. “Far and away, most patients we are seeing have mild illness and are sent home with common sense instructions: use a fever reducer for comfort, drink fluids, and rest,” Eisman said. “Apple juice and chicken soup recommendations. The public should not panic, nor should they be phobic about fevers.”
In an effort to deal with overcrowded waiting rooms, Pierre-Le Gardeur hospital will close its doors to visitors this weekend. Meanwhile the Jewish General Hospital is launching a one visitor per patient precaution initiative in an effort to limit the spread of infection.
As private health clinics start to feel the burden, Health Minister Yves Bolduc is evaluating a proposal to establish a network of seasonal flu vaccine clinics, similar to those opened during the H1N1 outbreak.