Local hospitals manage to avoid ER closures for now

·2 min read

The nursing shortage that prompted the shutdown of a hospital in Valleyfield hasn’t yet impacted health-care institutions closer to Kahnawake, but the staffing situation at the Anna-Laberge Hospital in Chateauguay remains “fragile,” a spokesperson for the health agency that’s responsible for the hospital said Monday.

“We are operating normally, but the staffing situation is fragile,” said Monteregie-Ouest CISSS communications officer Jade St-Jean said.

The emergency room in the Suroit Hospital in Valleyfield was shut down last Friday after a staffing shortage left the ER short of nurses and ambulances were diverted to Anna-Laberge. The hospital made the decision to close the hospital to new patients when six out of 10 nurses called in sick from exhaustion.

St-Jean said no such problem had yet arisen at Anna-Laberge, but that some extraordinary measures had been taken, such as having some managers work shifts on the hospital floor to relieve some of the pressure on the nursing staff.

“We’re paying special attention to that situation,” St-Jean said. “We’re doing everything we can to keep our staffing levels at the right level,” she said.

In addition, the hospital has started an all-out recruiting blitz with the intention of bringing in new staff to help close the staffing gap the health system has seen, St-Jean added.

“We are in recruiting mode and we are definitely looking to add nurses to our staff,” she said.

The head of the nurses’ union in the region, Mélanie Gignac, said the nursing shortage has been going on for months, and that hospital management had been repeatedly told this would happen.

"When there's no one to replace you, what are you supposed to do?" Gignac asked.

Quebec Health Minister Christian Dube said Saturday at the Coalition Avenir Quebecois (CAQ) that he has taken on the mammoth task of fixing the staffing shortages that have plagued the province’s health-care institutions for many years.

“My mission is to make health workers feel proud of the health network and for them to want to stay in it, or come back to it," Dubé said.

He added the government is trying to come up with ways to incentivize people who have left the profession to come back, by potentially increasing pay and improving working conditions.

McGill University Health Centre (MUHC) patients’ committee secretary Amy Ma said any changes to the system must be thoughtfully planned and followed through on.

"Any reforms to the health workforce must absolutely be centered around the needs of the most marginalized — we're talking about racialized communities, Indigenous people and people with disabilities, to name a few," Ma said.

Marc Lalonde, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Iori:wase

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