Lakeshore General to stop elective surgeries as staffing shortage crisis sweeps across Quebec
Union head says operating room will be open only for emergencies, cancer patients
Lakeshore General Hospital will stop offering elective surgeries on Monday due to staffing shortages, and it is not the only medical facility in Quebec that is currently facing service disruptions.
In a statement, the regional health authority for Montreal's West Island says it needed to close the hospital's two operating rooms due to the increasing number of COVID-19 cases it is seeing.
The CIUSSS de l'Ouest-de-l'Île-de-Montréal is reviewing the services it can offer daily, the statement says.
Elizabeth Rich, vice-president of the nurses' union at Lakeshore, says she was told the operating room will only be open for emergencies and to treat cancer patients.
This is so available staff can be shifted to the intensive care unit and emergency room, she said.
"Forced overtime is a daily thing. I think people are just exhausted. They're exhausted, and their only way out is to either go on sick leave or just quit," said Rich.
Rich doesn't know when elective surgeries might resume.
But staff shortages are affecting health services in other Quebec regions as well.
In Senneterre, a small town in Quebec's Abitibi-Témiscamingue region, there were about 100 people demonstrating out front of the hospital after the emergency room services were shut down overnight.
Officials there say they are missing more than 200 nurses.
CISSS Abitibi-Témiscamingue presented a plan on Friday to reorganize services to deal with the shortage.
Surgery services have been scaled back in some parts of the region as medical staff focus on emergencies, and only offer some elective treatments.
Other measures include transferring pediatric patients from La Serre to Rouyn-Noranda, reducing CLSC services in some areas and closing in others altogether.
"These are temporary measures. It's difficult for me to confirm the duration," said Caroline Roy, head of the CISSS Abitibi-Témiscamingue.
And in the Eastern Townships, Coaticook hospital's ER is closing evening and overnight service for the next three days because exams are being held for about 2,600 student nurses over the weekend.
Quebec Health Minister Christian Dubé has described the situation as a crisis and is asking the public for understanding. He said a plan to confront this issue will be presented next week.
with files from Derek Marinos and Radio-Canada