Quebec Health Minister Christian Dubé warned that health services across the province could be impacted due to staff shortages.
“In the next days, next weeks, … it is possible that we will have to make important cuts in services or reorganize services,” he told reporters in Quebec City.
One region that is likely to see changes in the near future is the Abitibi.
As an example, Dubé said the ER in Senneterre could close, forcing residents to seek care in Val d’Or.
“We much prefer closing it for certain hours, then to have it open for 24 hours with people who are totally exhausted,” he said. “I prefer redirecting services in certain areas than having services that aren’t safe for employees or for patients.”
Dubé called it a planned reorganization of services.
Dubé also worried about how staff shortages and the fourth wave of the pandemic might impact the province’s surgery waitlists. In June, Quebec outlined its goal of clearing the backlog to pre-pandemic levels by March 2023. So far, he said, the province remains on track.
In places like Montreal, however, with a rising number of COVID-19 cases, the impact on the health network will be closely monitored.
Dubé implored those who are not vaccinated against COVID-19 to get the shot, saying that in can make a difference in reducing waitlists.
“The ones that are not vaccinated are taking the spot of those people that should be in hospital for their surgery,” he said.
Dubé, however, admitted that staffing shortages, are exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic pre-date the health crisis.
In the Abitibi region, as in much of Western Quebec, there is stiff competition from Ontario where nurses are better paid.
Dubé cited Premier François Legault, saying that the province is facing a shortage of 4,000 nurses in the public health network.
Dubé said the government is looking recruit back nurses from the private sector and agencies, as well as others who have retired.
He said he’s hopeful nurses will return because the nurses union (FIQ) ratified the collective agreement over the summer and the government is looking to decrease mandatory overtime, which was a key issue in the negotiations.