The intensive care unit at the Gatineau Hospital will remain shut until at least Monday night due to a shortage of nurses, according to the local health authority.
The Centre intégré de Santé et de Services sociaux de l'Outaouais (CISSSO) announced Saturday that the ICU would close at midnight that night due to unexpected absences among the nursing staff.
On Sunday, CISSSO told Radio-Canada that the closure will remain in place at least another day — the sort of situation health-care advocates like Paul Brunet are tired of hearing about.
"It has become almost something very ordinary on the part of bureaucrats to tell us that, 'Well, we're sorry, but we're not going to treat you for a life or death situation,'" said Brunet, the chair of the Quebec Council for the Protection of Patients.
"It is a fundamental right to get adequate care when we are in a life-threatening situation."
CISSSO said Saturday that arrangements were being made with other hospitals to provide patients with ICU care, but did not share details on exactly where patients should go.
That's not good enough, said Brunet.
"Health service means that you have to get to the patient, not ask the patient to get to you," he said.
There also simply needs to be more nurses and other hospital workers hired, he said.
"We have to get rid of the philosophy of lean management that was imported from the manufacturing industry ... we need to have more personnel to be able to treat patients," he said.
Smaller regions worried
There's also the concern about what will happen when those patients who would have been treated at the Gatineau Hospital end up at the region's smaller health facilities, said Josey Bouchard, a member of western Quebec health advocacy group Voix du Pontiac.
"It's a small ICU that we have [in our region]," said Bouchard. "And you know, rooms have been moved around also because of COVID."
"We have staff but not that much staff, so there's not that many people that could be transferred here [especially as] we're just barely surviving."
The Gatineau Hospital's staffing situation was also the cause of sit-ins on Wednesday and Friday by nurses in both the ICU and the emergency department.
Many of the hospitals and clinics that fall under the authority of CISSSO are only being staffed at around 50 to 70 per cent, said Patrick Guay, president of the Union of Health-Care Professionals of the Outaouais.
Guay told Radio-Canada he's worried the region isn't adequately staffed for a potential second wave of COVID-19.
He also said the Quebec government should take immediate action after years of what he called inadequate funding for health care in the region.
CISSSO is expected to provide a further update Monday on the situation.