Unions representing health-care professionals in Quebec say the province’s plan to tackle a second wave of coronavirus cases is a positive step but fails to address the main issue: staff shortages.
The prospect of a second wave of COVID-19 is terrifying to Denyse Joseph and the health-care staff she represents.
“We have people saying we will not be able to go through a second wave if we don’t increase the staffing,” said Joseph, a spokesperson for Quebec’s nurses union, the Fédération interprofessionnelle de la santé du Québec (FIQ).
Joseph says the government’s plan to tackle the second wave is well-intentioned but doesn’t address the chronic understaffing issues health-care workers face.
Ten thousand PABs (préposé aux béneficiaires) are currently being trained but Joseph says it’s not enough.
She says the province needs more specialized nurses and to address patient-to-staff ratios.
“We’ve had those pilot projects that were probably put on on a shelve in the ministry right now that should be used in order to increase the number of health-care professionals to patients because the population will gain with that,” Joseph said.
One of the nine points in the government’s action plan is to reduce delays in COVID-19 testing.
But the association representing the technicians who analyze test results says its members are already on the verge of burnout.
“We really want the medical technologists who are doing the analysis to be in a proper healthy work environment and not having to do overtime and not having to live any psychological distress,” said Véronic Lapalme, second vice-president for the Alliance du personnel professionnel et technique de la santé et des services sociaux (APTS).
The APTS would also like the government to recruit more staff while adding incentives for those who are already working.
“There has always been an issue with the lack of staff with medical technologists and even before COVID, it was a problem. COVID exacerbated everything,” Lapalme added.
The Réseau FADOQ, Canada’s largest organization representing seniors, agrees.
They say it’s time for the government to address the fact that the province’s health-care network has been under-financed for too long.
“For more than 10 years, the political class has been directly responsible for underfunding the long-term care and they dilapidated the health infrastructure,” said FADOQ’s president Gisèle Tassé-Goodman.
The lack of protective equipment is also of great concern for the unions and associations.
A high number of Quebec’s COVID-19 infections have been among health-care workers.
The government has admitted it doesn’t have enough N95 masks and is working with a Quebec company to produce more.