Montreal General Hospital ER nurse says family worried for her safety following staffing cuts

An emergency room nurse at the Montreal General Hospital says cuts to hospital staffing levels have resulted in an unsafe environment for nurses.

Psychiatric patient's alleged strangling of nurse sent shockwaves through hospital community

A Montreal nurse, seen here speaking to CBC's Simon Nakonechny, is sounding the alarm on staffing issues, following last weekend's incident in which one of her co-workers was strangled. (CBC)

An emergency room nurse at the Montreal General Hospital says cuts to hospital staffing levels have resulted in an unsafe environment for nurses.

CBC News is referring to the nurse as "Mary" because revealing her identity could result in professional repercussions.

Mary is speaking out following an incident last weekend in which a patient who hospital authorities say was psychotic is alleged to have tried to strangle a 34-year-old nurse in the hospital's emergency room.

Police say the incident occurred at around 3:30 a.m. Saturday. The 25-year-old man was subdued by security guards and is facing assault charges.

Mary said cuts to the Montreal General's emergency room imperil nurses' safety, and she's calling on Quebec Health Minister Gaétan Barrette to act.

 'My family is nervous about me keeping this job.'- Mary, an ER nurse at the Montreal General Hospital.

"Mr. Barrette needs to look at the fact that someone almost died under these budget cuts," she said.

She said the incident has sent shockwaves throughout the hospital, which is part of the McGill University Health Centre.

"Everyone's really upset," she said. "It's hard to see that and go back to work and do your job and question, 'Am I next?'"

Position cut

Before the Couillard government's rounds of cuts in the name of austerity, the psychiatric wing of the Montreal General's emergency room had three nurses and one orderly on duty at night.

The night shift is now staffed by two nurses and one orderly.

In a statement, the MUHC said the proportion of nurses to patients in the psychiatric emergency department remains unchanged.

"The number of nurses varies according to the number of patients," the statement reads. 

A nurse and an orderly suffered minor injuries after they were attacked by a psychiatric patient at the Montreal General Hospital on Saturday. (CBC)

Temporary security guard

When the Montreal General's psychiatric emergency room was built, there was a dedicated area created for a security guard, but the position has never been staffed, Mary said.

After the attack, MUHC administrators posted a security guard to the area at all hours — at least until the investigation into the attack is concluded.

Mary said she's concerned the administration will remove the guard following that inquiry.

"Is this going to be just a quick Band-aid, so they can say, 'Look, we've dealt with this situation,' and then, when nobody's looking, remove it from us again?" she asked.

A spokesperson for Barrette declined to comment, saying it was up to hospital management to respond.

However, Mary said Barrette needs to take responsibility for the situation, before it's too late and a health care worker gets hurt.

"It will happen to someone. Whether it's me or someone else, my family is nervous about me keeping this job," she said.