Quebec promises new Lakeshore General ER, eventually

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Quebec promises new Lakeshore General ER, eventually

Health Minister Gaétan Barrette committed on Monday to the first phase of a plan to build a new emergency room at the Lakeshore General hospital in Pointe-Claire.

Three provincial ministers were on hand to make the announcement in a campaign-style event Monday afternoon, saying that $1.5 million to study the project.

Finance Minister Carlos Leitão and Aboriginal Affairs Minister Geoffrey Kelley — both of whom represent West Island ridings — were present along with Barrette.

Barrette said he's aware of the longstanding concerns about the hospital. 

"When I first came into office, Geoff [Kelley] came to me and he said, 'You're a doctor, you must have heard about the Lakeshore Emergency room.' And I said, 'Yes, for many many years," he said.

The Lakeshore hospital has notoriously long wait times in the emergency department. A 2016 survey put the wait time at 24.7 hours — the longest of any hospital in the province.

Barrette said Monday that the hospital administration has managed to reduce the wait time to 15 hours, something he called "unheard of in the province."

He added that some of the workspaces at Lakeshore were put in place only as temporary measures, but have remained that way since 1998.

Barrette pledged to go beyond renovating the existing emergency room, saying that the government was willing to spend $90 million to construct a new building.

Barrette said the project was between five and seven years away from completion, but added that the commitment was "past the point of no return" and that "there will be a new emergency room here."

He added that the new building could be as much as triple the size of the current one.

The announcement comes seven months ahead of the Oct. 1 provincial election.

Crowded, hectic

Josée Asselin, who works for the union that represents professionals and technicians at the hospital, said she wants to see more staff hired to manage the demand at the hospital's emergency room.

"For sure, it's good news to modernize equipment. But when you triple the size of the emergency room, and you put nobody else in there ... how could they really do their job if right now they are already overloaded? Most of them are falling apart, exhausted," she said.

Elaine Bedford, a former ER nurse at Lakeshore, told CBC News that "overcrowding was always an issue, but now it just seems to be worse. The building is deteriorating and there's a lot of shortness of staff."

"It's a wonderful idea to have a bigger, more improved emergency room but you have to have the staff," she said.

Marilyn Kegle, a Pierrefonds resident who uses the hospital, said she hopes that, ultimately, a new emergency room facility will help reduce wait times even more.

"I was in the emergency room last week with my husband and it took 13 hours from the minute we arrived. It was very crowded in there, very hectic," she said.