Monday, 17 January 2011

811 for Health Questions, You Say? Why Do So Few People in Quebec Know about It?

Part of the reason why health professionals interested in privatizing the health care system have found such fertile ground is the perceived dirth of direct access to medical advice in off hours. What to do in the middle of the night when your kid is sick? Or you break out in hives? Or you've been vomiting for 24 hours?

One solution which many use is to go directlly to hospital emergency services, but there are other solutions that function much better as a first step. For more than two years in Quebec, a simple call to 811 can put you in contact with an Info-Santé health professional 24/7/365. We've used the system several times, including when I came down in the middle of the night with a dreadful case of hives (that eventually lasted 18 months) and when our little Jeanne had a respiratory problem at age 18 days. In both cases the advice we got was good, and in the former avoided a trip to the emergency room. In the latter, Jeanne's parents were told to go directly the hospital where they were seen in half an hour, and then, happily, sent home because the problem really wasn't serious.

But who knows about this service? Our CLSC (local public health clinic) sent us the number when the service was set up, but there has been no continous publicity. Getting the message out could make a big difference in the efficiency of health care delivery.

For more about creeping privatization of Quebec's health care system, see the excellent story in the weekend's Le Devoir.

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