For the second time in one week, health authorities are urging people to avoid emergency rooms in the Laurentians.
Emergency departments in three of the region's six hospitals are experiencing major patient overflows.
Emergency rooms of the Saint-Eustache, Saint-Jérôme and Sainte-Agathe-des-Monts hospitals had reached between 130 to 150 per cent capacity by Sunday, according to the Laurentians' Integrated Health and Social Service Centre (CISSS).
The health authority says staff shortages and the greater presence of tourists in the region at this time of year are some of the reasons behind the overflow of patients. The union for Laurentians health workers says employee burnout is making the problem worse.
Across Quebec, a growing number of ERs have been struggling to care for patients as hospitals deal with severe staffing shortages caused by nurses fed up with pandemic working conditions. Over the past few months, several ERs have been forced to curtail their opening hours or shut down altogether.
In June, the CISSS des Laurentides asked people with non-urgent health problems "to opt for other solutions" rather than going to emergency, due to high occupancy rates, particularly at the Saint-Eustache Hospital.
On Sunday, Myriam Sabourin, spokesperson for the CISSS, recommended patients go to a walk-in clinic or call Info-Santé if they have minor health problems.
"If their situation seems critical and they need emergency services, they should not hesitate, obviously, these people will be taken care of," she said.
"These are not easy issues to resolve, so it may take a few days."
Emergency room nurses and physicians say they have demanded, in vain, that the provincial government do something to attract more staff — such as ban forced overtime and have better nurse-to-patient ratio.
This is the second time in a week that health authorities in the Laurentians have asked people to avoid the ERs. On average, ERs in the region are operating at 139 per cent capacity, as of Monday.