Quebec Health Minister Réjean Hebert says Lachine Hospital is too important an institution to Montreal's West Island to lose any beds, and he will strongly urge the island of Montreal's regional health authority to reverse a decision to close ten long-term beds.

However, the hospital may be losing its association with the McGill University Health Centre.

The Lachine hospital is part of the financially-troubled MUHC, but Hébert said even before the news that McGill might close the Lachine beds to save money, he had asked the MUHC and the regional health agency to consider "reintegrating" the hospital under the umbrella of the health and social service centre (CSSS)  that serves Dorval, Lasalle and Lachine.

"The Lachine hospital is an important hospital for delivering services to the population of the West Island," Hébert said.

Hébert said coming as it does during an outbreak of influenza, the decision to close 20 per cent of the hospital's beds is "questionable."

He said when his ministry ordered the MUHC to find ways to balance its books, it was told it could not cut  services to patients.

"Closing ten beds is decreasing services to the population," Hébert said. "That's not the deal."

Ambulances turned away, doctor says

Earlier, a doctor at the hospital, Paul Saba, said  the loss of the beds would create a backlog in patient care.

"Patients are forced to stay in the emergency room. We have no capacity to take new patients and we actually had to stop the ambulances from coming," he said..