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Coronavirus: Montreal-area hospitals nearing the brink as holiday season begins

Click to play video: 'Coronavirus: Montreal hospitals struggling to keep up with growing number of COVID-19 patients' Coronavirus: Montreal hospitals struggling to keep up with growing number of COVID-19 patients
WATCH: Intensive care units at Montreal hospitals are filling up and doctors may soon have to make difficult decisions prioritizing patients. As Felicia Parillo reports, health care professionals are also feeling the effects of this second wave of the pandemic – Dec 23, 2020

Montreal-area hospitals are nearing their breaking point.

Over the last 24 hours, the head of the McGill University Health Centre (MUHC)’s critical care department said they’ve had to transfer patients to other departments, in order to relieve pressure on their intensive care unit.

“We have moved some patients to the Post-Anesthesia Care Unit and we are in the process now, and probably have already, moved some patients to the pediatric intensive care unit,” said Dr. Peter Goldberg.

Read more: Coronavirus: Politicians show united front, urge Quebecers to do their part to save health system

As of Wednesday afternoon, the Royal Victoria site had 29 out of its 33 beds occupied and 21 out of 24 beds were occupied at the Montreal General site.

Goldberg said he fears they may soon be nearing the time when they’ll be forced to choose which patients will get critical care.

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“We’re not at that point yet, but I can say quite truthfully that we are having those conversations, planning for that possibility that no one really wants to think about,” he said.

Read more: ‘Situation is worrying’: Lakeshore General Hospital grapples with multiple COVID-19 outbreaks

Meanwhile, in an internal memo obtained by Global News sent to staff at the Lakeshore Hospital, they were informed that for the holiday period, they will either give up their statutory holidays, upgrade their position to full-time, or work 12 hour shifts.

The memo added that if employees didn’t decide which option they preferred, the hospital would make the decision for them.

“Lakeshore needs to sit with the union and find a solution,” said Elizabeth Rich from the Quebec Nurses’ Union. “This is not a solution to force somebody.”

Read more: Experts urge caution as Quebecers crowd into shopping malls despite cresting second COVID-19 wave

In a statement to Global News, the regional health authority said they sent the memo to avoid a break in service.

“We are well aware that our employees have been working very hard over the past few months, in a very difficult context, and that we have already asked a lot from them. We must again redouble our efforts to deal with the impacts of the second wave of the pandemic.”

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“People have families, they’re humans and they cannot hold on anymore,” said Rich. “I think they are at their breaking point.”

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Coronavirus: First batch of COVID-19 vaccines in Canada unloaded at Montreal airport – Dec 14, 2020

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