Baie-Saint-Paul hospital staff juggle shifts and vacation plans to keep ER open

After announcing last week that the Baie-Saint-Paul hospital would have to close its emergency room from 8 p.m. to 4 a.m. because of a shortage of nurses, the regional health authority said today it had worked with staff to find a way to keep it open.

Shortage of nurses had forced Charlevoix hospital to curtail emergency room services

Baie Saint-Paul Hospital's emergency room will once again be open 24/7 thanks to an agreement between the local health authority and hospital staff. (Radio-Canada)

A local hospital in a popular tourist destination has found a way to keep its emergency room operating this summer.

A severe shortage of nurses in the Charlevoix region had forced the hospital in Baie Saint-Paul, about 350 kilometres northeast of Montreal, to admit patients to the ER only between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m. starting June 28. The reduced service was supposed to last until Sept. 11.

Anyone needing medical attention outside of those hours was going to have to travel about 50 kilometres to get to the emergency department at La Malbaie Hospital, or 60 kilometres to the ER in Sainte-Anne-de- Beaupré.

Today, though, the regional health authority, the CIUSSS (Centre intégré universitaire de santé et de services sociaux) de la Capitale-Nationaleannounced that it had worked with its nursing staff and come up with solutions.

In a news release, the CIUSSS said nursing staff at the hospitals in Baie Saint-Paul and La Malbaie agreed to modify their shifts, work in different locations and delay their vacations to keep the institutions running.

Even with staff stepping up, though, La Malbaie hospital will still have its services temporarily reduced this summer, with three intermediate care beds closed until Sept. 11.

"It is excellent news," said Émilie Foster, the MNA for Charlevoix-Côte-de-Beaupré. "From the bottom of my heart, I say thank you. If there's one thing we can draw from this, it's that when our region works together, we can accomplish anything."

Last week, a spokesperson for the Charlevoix health authority, Mélanie Otis, said that the region lacks a total of 40 nurses to fill existing gaps across all sectors, including 20 in its hospitals.

Otis said the labour shortage has been exacerbated during the pandemic. 

The nursing shortage in the area has also been attributed to the fact there were no graduates of the nursing program at the Cégep de La Malbaie this year.


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