Lakeshore General Hospital emergency room nursing staff at breaking point, union says

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WATCH: Nursing staff at the Lakeshore General Hospital say the staffing situation in the emergency room has hit a critical point. They say the situation has become so difficult for health-care workers, and in spite of measures put in place by administration, some fear the emergency room may eventually be forced to close. Global’s Phil Carpenter reports – Jul 5, 2021

A staffing crisis at the Lakeshore General Hospital in Pointe-Claire, Que., has become so critical that nursing staff fear the emergency department may eventually have to close.

“You can work with minus three, four nurses in one evening or day,” said Elizabeth Rich, the vice-president of workplace health and security at Quebec’s largest nurses union (FIQ), “but this is recurrent.  It’s every day.”

Nurses say enough is enough.

For months, they have staged sit-ins to protest the nursing shortage in the ER, saying things got much worse during the COVID-19 pandemic.  They claim, however, that the tactic has not worked, and some are leaving.

Read more: Lakeshore Hospital nurses stage sit-in over working conditions

“They apply on other postings because they don’t want to stay in that situation anymore,” Rich told Global News. “They find it unsafe.”

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Rich doesn’t believe any transfers have been done yet, even though she says some staff began applying for postings in June.

“Summer vacations are going to be hard,” she pointed out.  “I think this fall is going to be very hard, too, because these people, they will want to go on their new post, and there’s less and less people in emergency right now.”

But other medical staff told Global News that some nurses have quit outright.  Three nurses who spoke on condition of anonymity have expressed outrage over the staffing situation.

Read more: Lakeshore General Hospital nurses sound alarm over emergency room staffing shortage

In an email, one wrote, “nurses are exhausted physically, and mentally.  We are frustrated with poor management and talk of improvement.  There is no accountability and they need to wipe the slate clean and start with fresh innovative ideas to retain their staff.  We are leaving in droves!”

In a statement, the CIUSSS de l’Ouest-de-l’Île-de-Montréal, which oversees the hospital, said “the health network is also affected by a staff shortage and the Lakeshore General Hospital is no exception.  The recruitment of nurses remains an issue, despite all the efforts of the campaigns to recruit health professionals.”

The body also claimed that certain measures have been put in place to address the shortages.

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Health Minister Christian Dubé said he’s aware of the staffing issues and his priority is to make sure there’s no interruption of service.

“We have an issue for this summer, but we’ll try to minimize it by putting sometimes hospitals together,” he said.

The nurses union believes the hospital is doing its best given the circumstances, but pointed out that short-term measures are too little, too late.

“If something doesn’t happen, well, I don’t know. I’m to a point to say let’s close this ER,” Rich lamented.

Other nurses agree that it could come to that, until things get better.

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