Doctors at the Lachine Hospital in Montreal say there’s a severe shortage of respiratory technicians on site and they fear it could get worse.
“We have eight,” Dr. Paul Saba of the Lachine Hospital Council of Physicians told Global News. “We had 25 two years ago so there’s been a gradual erosion.”
Saba and other physicians at the hospital have decided to personally pay intensive care premiums for the technicians in an effort, according to Saba, to encourage the remaining ones to stay. He said therapists are leaving for downtown hospitals where they’re paid more.
“The reason is that what they call critical care bonuses are not being given to our respiratory therapists,” Saba explained.
Saba suggests the staff issue has worsened since the McGill University Health Centre (MUHC), which oversees the hospital, closed the intensive care unit, as well as emergency room to ambulances, last fall because of staff shortages.
The premiums are only given to the technicians when they work with critical care patients.
“They can’t work in the intensive care because it doesn’t exist, they aren’t seeing critically ill patients in the emergency room because we don’t have ambulances,” Saba said.
Now doctors at the hospital promise to pay thousands of dollars in bonuses to the therapists for the next three months.
“Even if the respiratory therapist isn’t working in the emergency room, even if they’re sitting idly twiddling their thumbs,” Saba told Global News.
The physician said it’s their way of helping with recruitment until services can be brought back.
“This is very generous of the doctors but this is not the way it should work,” noted Vincent Marissal, Québec Solidaire health critic, from the provincial legislature.
He lays the blame for staffing shortages belongs squarely at the feet of the Legault government.
“It is not for individuals to pay to make sure that essential services are available to the people,” he stressed. “It’s for the government to do.”
MUHC spokesperson Gilda Salomone told Global News in an email, “we are actively recruiting for respiratory therapists and nurses, so when the Level 1 ICU at the Lachine Hospital reopens, the associated premiums will be paid. At the moment, 25 out of 57 nursing positions are currently vacant and 3 nurses are absent from the emergency department and intensive care unit. There is also a shortage of 16 out of 27 respiratory therapists.”
She wrote that they don’t have a timeline yet for the reopening or the return of ambulances, “but we are working very hard to develop one that is safe for all,” she said.