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Coronavirus: Quebec nurses, health-care workers protest working conditions, lack of vacations

Click to play video: 'Coronavirus: Quebec Premier pleads for more people to work in the province’s health-care network' Coronavirus: Quebec Premier pleads for more people to work in the province’s health-care network
There are still 10,000 workers missing from the Quebec’s health-care network including nurses, orderlies, nurse practitioners and others. Their absence is putting a strain on the health-care system, particularly in the hard hit long-term care homes. As Global's Raquel Fletcher explains, Quebec is offering attractive salaries to encourage people to work as orderlies – May 27, 2020

Nurses and other workers demonstrated in front of health-care centres across the province Wednesday to protest their working conditions and lack of vacation amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

On the first of three days of planned protest, Quebec Nurses’ Federation members and other health-care workers took to the streets behind the slogan “dead tired.”

They were voicing their opposition to a ministerial decree, adopted by the Quebec government in the context of the pandemic, which allows regional health boards to refuse leave and postpone vacations.

“Summer Vacation, Period,” read one of the signs held by workers on the grounds of the Notre-Dame-de-la-Merci long-term care home in northern Montreal.

READ MORE: Montreal nurses worried about lack of protective gear, testing, staff: ‘We’re all getting tired’

Quebec Nurses’ Federation president Nancy Bédard told workers and reporters on site that members have given everything they’ve had for months. Bédard says there are concerns that if there’s a second wave next fall, workers will not have had enough rest to handle it.

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“They need to have their vacation. It is the minimum that we can expect,” Bédard said.

David Routhier, a local representative of another union representing health-care workers, the APTS, said the situation has improved to the point where refusing holidays or postponing vacations isn’t justified.

“There are fewer and fewer residents who are sick, and fewer and fewer employees are absent,” Routhier said in an interview.

READ MORE: Lessons Learned: West Island regional health agency preparing for second wave of coronaviru

While Notre-Dame-de-la-Merci reported an increase in cases, the contamination rate in other homes is going down. So Routhier said there’s no reason to cut vacations or restrict them as a precaution.

Health Minister Danielle McCann said the government’s intention is to give everyone the time off they need with a possible second wave in mind.

“We are aiming for a two-week vacation for everyone,” McCann said in Quebec City. “That will be important so that people are more rested to come back in the fall to help us.”

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