Starting Nov. 7, the Lachine Hospital emergency room will be open only from 7:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m., seven days a week.
After 7:30 p.m., all ambulances will be redirected to the Glen site of the McGill University Health Centre (MUHC) and the Montreal General Hospital.
The change in services comes as Lachine faces a critical shortage of nurses, 18 months into the pandemic.
"This is the first instance where we'll have to curtail services," Dr. Pierre Gfeller, president and executive director of the MUHC, said.
All other services at Lachine Hospital will continue as usual.
Lachine is one of several hospitals forced to adjust emergency room service hours because of the ongoing lack of nurses and respiratory therapists in Quebec's public health sector.
Dr. Gfeller says he expects this change in schedule to last for at least a few weeks.
"I would expect it to revert to normal at the beginning of the year in January… but we'll see what happens," he said.
Normally, the hospital receives eight to 10 ambulances per day, according to Dr. Gfeller.
He says staffing at the hospital is just under 50 per cent of the number needed to keep the place running regularly. Gfeller said they have 29 nurses out of 52 and are missing about six respiratory therapists.
"We're also hoping that there will be people who will come back to the public health sector given the statement of the health directors of health-care centres in the Greater Montreal area to gradually reduce the use of agencies."
The MUHC does not impose mandatory overtime, nor does it work with agencies, says Dr. Gfeller.
Modernizing for staff retention
This temporary closure will not affect the ongoing $200-million modernization project at Lachine Hospital.
"We have found out during the pandemic that new hospitals are very attractive to the people working in the hospital," Dr. Gfeller said. "
He says the second element that would help retain staff is improved public transportation because Lachine is "kind of an enclave" within Montreal, which makes it difficult to reach by public transit .
Demonstration for health-care workers
The announcement of reduced hours comes on the eve of a demonstration hosted by borough Mayor Maya Vodanovic that is scheduled to take place in front of the hospital at 10 a.m. Saturday.
"We want to express our support for health-care workers and our wish to get more staff for our hospital," Vodanovic wrote on social media about the event.
Vodanovic says blue squares will be handed out at the demonstration to send a message of support to health-care staff.