Winter clinics open early this year as Quebec hopes to ease pressure on crowded ERs

Cold and flu sufferers will be able to seek treatment at dedicated clinics across the province starting today. 

The "winter clinic" program was initially launched last January as a way of reducing wait times in Quebec's already crowded hospital emergency rooms.

Health Minister Danielle McCann said this weekend the program was being rolled out earlier this year in order to avoid the long wait times that hit hospitals last winter.

"As much as possible, you have to avoid going to the emergency room," McCann told Radio-Canada on Sunday. "For all those minors issues, like an infection, you shouldn't be going to an emergency room."

The winter clinics are aimed at people suffering from flu or gastrointestinal illnesses, but also welcome patients with any other minor medical issue, McCann said. 

Clinics taking part in the program will have added staff on hand and be open for longer hours until the end of March.

 

As of Monday, there will be 55 winter clinics open in Quebec, including 26 in Montreal. Though that's fewer than last year, the Health Ministry said overall capacity will be higher, with 20,000 patient-hours available.

Around 30,000 people made use of the clinics last year.

A list of participating clinics is available on the Health Ministry's website.