Lack of nurses prompts Baie-Saint-Paul Hospital to cut emergency room hours this summer

A serious lack of nursing staff in the Charlevoix region is forcing a local hospital to restrict its emergency room services to the daytime for the summer. 

People who need emergency care between 4 p.m. and 8 a.m. will have to travel up to 50 km

Baie Saint-Paul Hospital's emergency room will only be open from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. from June 28 to Sept. 11, 2021. (Radio-Canada)

A severe shortage of nurses in the Charlevoix region is forcing a local hospital in the popular tourist destination to curtail its emergency room services this summer.

The hospital in Baie Saint-Paul, about 350 kilometres northeast of Montreal, will only admit patients to the ER between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m. from June 28 to Sept. 11. 

Anyone needing medical attention outside of those hours will 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.

La Malbaie Hospital, though, will also have its services temporarily reduced this summer, having closed three of its intermediate care beds.

The regional health authority called the measures in La Malbaie and Baie Saint-Paul "exceptional and temporary."

But Baie Saint-Paul Mayor Jean Fortin said he was surprised by the decision, and concerned by it given thousands of tourists are expected to flock to the region in that period.

"I learned the news through local media, so obviously, it's a shock to learn that the emergency room will be closed every evening, every night, all summer," Fortin told Radio-Canada. 

A nurse and a doctor will be at the Baie Saint-Paul hospital overnight to provide care in the event of a cardiorespiratory emergency in the area.

An additional ambulance vehicle will also be deployed on the territory.

A spokesperson for the Charlevoix health authority, Mélanie Otis, said the region lacks a total of forty nurses to fill existing gaps across all sectors, including twenty in its hospitals.

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

Some Baie-Saint-Paul Hospital nurses will be temporarily redirected to La Malbaie hospital. 

Otis said, had the measure not been taken, nurses would have been forced to work overtime. 

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.

With files from Radio-Canada's Hadi Hassin


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