Montreal public detox centre forced to close third of beds after losing half its nurses

Montreal's only free rehab and addiction treatment facility has had to close a third of its beds in the withdrawal unit after losing half its nursing staff in a wave of resignations.

12 nurses were responsible for keeping withdrawal unit open 24/7, says former employee

Claudine Pringle was a nurse clinician working at the Centre de réadaptation en dépendance de Montréal. She quit just before Christmas. (Radio-Canada)

Montreal's only free public detox unit and addiction treatment centre has had to close a third of its beds after losing half its nursing staff in a recent wave of resignations.

The Centre de réadaptation en dépendance de Montréal (CRDM), also called the Dollard-Cormier Centre, on Prince-Arthur Street has 28 beds for patients in withdrawal from alcohol and drug addiction. Ten of those beds are no longer available to patients.

"We were 12 nurses keeping the unit open 24 hours a day. Of the 12, six have left," said Claudine Pringle, who quit just before Christmas.

A nurse-clinician, Pringle said she sometimes had to work 16-hour days, so she left in order to take care of herself.

"I think my mental health would have really taken a hit if I had stayed there," she said. "When I resigned, I cried in front of my boss."

She said her experience working at the centre was not unique.

When I resigned, I cried in front of my boss.- Ex-CRDM nurse-clinician Claudine Pringle

"I don't know any one of my colleagues who didn't apply elsewhere," she said.

Josianne Moreau, president of the health care professionals union for the Centre-Sud-de-l'Île-de-Montréal region, said that the long hours have pushed nurses over the edge.

Josianne Moreau is the president of the union of health care professionals of Centre-Sud-de-l'Île-de-Montréal. (Radio-Canada)

"The nurses were in distress because of the overtime," she said. "We see our nurses who can no longer manage the task."

Moreau added that it won't be easy to find replacements because "rehabilitation is a specialized domain."

The Dollard-Cormier Centre is the only public, completely free rehabilitation facility in the city, said Mélanie Cantin, who is with the APTS, the alliance of professional and technical health workers.

She said that while there are other addiction treatment centres in the city, they all charge fees.

Cantin said the problems affecting the CRDM will have an impact on the entire addictions treatment network.

The Centre de réadaptation en dépendance de Montréal is the only completely free, public addiction detox centre in the city. (Radio-Canada)

Jason Champagne, director of addiction programs at the CIUSSS du Centre-Sud-de-l'Île-de-Montréal, said that the staff shortages have indeed impacted the service they are able to offer.

"We are having difficulty replacing personnel. To ensure the safety of users and staff, we have made the decision to close these beds," he said.

He noted, however, that the CIUSSS did open additional beds at the withdrawal unit at Notre-Dame Hospital and that some patients were transferred there.

Champagne said his team is trying to recruit new nurses and hopes to reopen the 10 beds soon.

"We want to better support our nurses. We want to take the time to train them. So in a few weeks our beds can be reopened," he said, adding that there are still positions open.

Champagne said that he understood the nurses who left were worn thin, but he denied that the departures were related to any budgetary issues.

With files from Radio-Canada's Davide Gentile