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2020 ranking of Quebec ERs – Which ones are the most overcrowded?

Montreal, April 22, 2020 – In which Quebec emergency rooms are patients most likely to return home without having seen a doctor? The “2020 Ranking of ER Overcrowding in Quebec,” launched today by the MEI, describes the situation over the past year and measures the evolution of the situation over five years using data obtained through a request for access to information, before the COVID-19 pandemic.

The MEI had already recently shown that each year, some 380,000 Quebecers—or over 1,000 patients a day—leave a hospital emergency room without having been attended to by a doctor, and without having been redirected within the system. What’s more, one fifth of these patients had been classified as “very urgent” or “urgent” during triage (Priority 2 or 3).

As Patrick Déry, Senior Associate Analyst at the MEI and author of the ranking, explains, the situation is far from uniform across the province: “No emergency room in Quebec manages to respond to patients’ demand for care. Yet some hospitals see fewer than 5% of their patients turn around and go home, while for others, it’s up to one in four who give up on receiving care, notably in the Outaouais and Laurentian regions.”

The regional picture shows that the portion of the province located north or east of Quebec City generally fares better than the western part of the province, except for the North Shore: “Quebec City, Greater Montreal, and the Outaouais—basically, the urban centres—are the places where patients are most likely to give up and go home,” notes Mr. Déry.

The situation has worsened over the past five years: The emergency rooms of many Montreal hospitals are increasingly overcrowded. On the other hand, the situation has improved significantly for certain hospitals located in the Mauricie and the Lower St. Lawrence regions.

“The remedies for these chronic problems are well-known: a reduction of professional barriers, a better alignment of incentives with patients’ needs, and a general improvement of the efficiency of our health care system all while maintaining its universality. Simply put, we should all be able to be treated when the need arises,” notes Daniel Dufort, Senior Director of External Relations, Communications and Development and co-author of the publication.

“To paraphrase a former Supreme Court judge: ‘Access to a waiting room is not access to health care.’ Having to return home untreated when one is ill is even less so,” concludes Patrick Déry.

The “2020 Ranking of ER Overcrowding in Quebec” was prepared by Patrick Déry, Senior Associate Analyst at the Montreal Economic Institute, and Daniel Dufort, Senior Director of External Relations, Communications and Development. This publication is available on our website.

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The MEI is an independent public policy think tank. Through its publications, media appearances, and advisory services to policy-makers, the MEI stimulates public policy debate and reforms based on sound economics and entrepreneurship.


Interview requests: Daniel Dufort, Senior Director of External Relations, Communications and Development, MEI. Tel.: 438-886-9919 / Email: ddufort@iedm.org

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