Quebec’s winter clinics far from the panacea promised by health minister.

AARON DERFEL, Updated: January 27, 2020
Andrea Mendell, nursing an infected cut on her lower lip, arrived 20 minutes before the Queen Elizabeth Urgent Care Clinic opened its doors at 8 a.m. to make sure she wouldn’t have to wait too long to see a doctor.

But Mendell, a high school teacher from Côte-St-Luc, was stunned to discover that there were already 21 people ahead of her in line, with the first patient having arrived at 5:50 a.m. on a recent Wednesday.

Mendell is one of those patients who heeded the advice of Health Minister Danielle McCann: don’t go to a hospital emergency room unless you have a major problem. Knowing that her infected lower lip didn’t qualify as a major problem, Mendell turned instead to one of the winter clinics that McCann pledged would ease the burden on the province’s overcrowded ERs.

Yet at the same time that Mendell was waiting in the packed winter clinic on Marlowe Ave., the ER at the nearby Royal Victoria Hospital was filled to almost double its capacity, with five patients languishing on gurneys in its hallways.

This is precisely the scenario that the winter clinics were intended to avoid, prompting one ER doctor in the Laurentians to call them a fiasco. Other critics suggest that the failure of winter clinics to solve Quebec’s perennial ER crisis is a symptom of a much deeper dilemma: the chronic shortage of family doctors in Montreal as well as a lack of nurses in hospitals.

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Quebec’s winter clinics far from the panacea promised by health minister.