MUHC staff cuts affecting patient care, surgeons warn

Surgeons at the McGill University Health Centre say they are buried in paperwork after several staff cuts.

Cuts to support staff leaves doctors buried in paperwork, patients' phone calls unanswered

The MUHC's oncology department has lost two secretaries in the last six months, a surgeon told CBC.

Surgeons at the McGill University Health Centre say they are buried in paperwork after several staff cuts.

One oncology surgeon told CBC that in the last six months, the department has lost two secretaries.

According to the surgeon, one cancer patient recently tried calling for a week to ask about an upcoming surgery.

"[Cancer patients] are complicated patients who require frequent communication with support staff," said the surgeon, who spoke with CBC on the condition of anonymity. 

But the only remaining secretary was so overwhelmed that she didn't check the answering machine, said the surgeon. The patient didn't get an answer until the morning of the operation.

Dr. Ewa Sidorowicz, MUHC's director of professional services, said that while the changes are difficult, the health care system will be more organized in the coming months.

"I'm extremely sensitive to how the patients are feeling, and I would like to reassure them that we are putting everything in place to make sure that it's seamless for the patients," Sidorowicz said, adding that any surgeons who are worried about the impact on patient care should speak to her directly.

The MUHC patients' committee also wants to meet with doctors to find out just how bad the administrative cuts are, but it says that scheduling a time has been difficult due to the lack of secretaries.

Management problem, health minister says

Health Minister Gaétan Barrette responded to the surgeons' complaints today.

In an interview with CBC Radio's Homerun, Barrette said the problem is not about a lack of funding, but a lack of leadership and management skills.

"There is a problem in terms of leadership at the MUHC and we are addressing that issue," he said.

"When the administration is reorganizing things, they cut personnel directed to helping doctors instead of cutting within the administration. That's what they're complaining about and to tell you the truth, there is some truth to what they are complaining about. And that's something we are addressing today."

With files from CBC's Jaela Bernstien and Homerun