Montreal's Maisonneuve-Rosemont hospital has closed 36 beds due, in part, to the widespread staff shortage that is affecting medical facilities across the province.
The nearby Santa Cabrini hospital has also scaled back, closing 26 beds.
At least 12 out of 60 beds reserved for cancer patients will be closed at Maisonneuve-Rosemont, a hospital that offers specialized oncology care.
An additional 18 beds reserved for those waiting to be moved into a long-term care facility will also be nixed.
Christian Merciari, a spokesperson for the two hospitals, said the decision to cut 10 per cent of beds at the facilities was made for two reasons.
The number of available beds had to be reduced to meet the standard staff-to-patient ratio, Merciari said. At the same time, the hospital had to reduce room capacities to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
"Thus the conversion of certain double and even quadruple rooms into single rooms had the impact of reducing the number of beds available," Merciari said.
Martine Leblanc, a director with the east end public health agency, said it's not possible during the pandemic to line the hallways with overflow stretchers.
"We are going through a very difficult period," Leblanc told Radio-Canada.
A modular unit offering 36 single rooms for the oncology department is under construction and slated to open in January, she said.
Even then, additional staff will be needed when those rooms open.
Health minister says more beds may close
The province can expect more bed closures in other hospitals because they are understaffed, said Health Minister Christian Dubé.
"Unfortunately, there will be trimming down," Dubé said.
Dubé will soon visit Maisonneuve-Rosemont hospital to see how it is being managed and to search for solutions, even if it means installing more modular units, he said on Thursday.
Denis Cloutier, president of the healthcare professional union's east end chapter, said there just aren't enough workers available.
Those that are on the job are increasingly working compulsory overtime, leading to exhaustion.
"They are still super resilient, but we have reached a breaking point," Cloutier said.