Nursing shortage forces Hull Hospital to relocate surgeries

Some patients scheduled for surgeries at the Hull Hospital could end up going under the knife elsewhere as the hospital deals with a dearth of operating room nurses.

Some non-emergency operations will now take place in Shawville and Maniwaki

Dozens of surgeries at the Hull Hospital have been postponed or relocated as the hospital struggles with a lack of available nurses. (Michel Aspirot/Radio-Canada)

Some patients scheduled for surgeries at the Hull Hospital could end up going under the knife elsewhere as the hospital tackles an ongoing nursing shortage.

Certain non-emergency surgeries could take place instead at hospitals in Shawville, Que., and Maniwaki, Que., said Guy Morissette, director of professional services for centre intégré de santé et de services sociaux (CISSS) de l'Outaouais. 

"We're trying to identify solutions so that people can have [their] surgery done — not necessarily at the Hull Hospital, but also in other hospitals," Morissette said.

Outside the hospital, Richard Marleau, who suffers from Crohn's disease, a painful inflammatory disease of the intestinal tract, said in an interview with Radio-Canada that he'd already learned his Tuesday surgery had been put on hold.

"Now that it's postponed, I'm back on the urgent surgery wait list," Marleau said in French. 

"So it could be next month, or in three months. The longer we wait, the greater the chances I'll have to be fed intravenously."

Richard Marleau suffers from Crohn's and had an operation scheduled at the Hull Hospital for Tuesday. (Radio-Canada)

Emergency surgeries still going ahead

Last week, the CISSS de l'Outaouais announced that only two priority elective surgery "lines" would be in operation until at least Oct. 6.

Emergency surgeries would continue as normal at the hospital, the health region said.

With nursing staff levels on the operating room floor about one-third what they should be, steps had to be taken to reduce the workload, Morissette told Radio-Canada on the weekend.

Guy Morissette, director of professional services for the Centre intégré de santé et de services sociaux (CISSS) de l'Outaouais, says some surgeries at the Hull Hospital are being relocated as the hospital deals with a significant nursing shortage. (Radio-Canada)

Since the Shawville and Maniwaki hospitals don't have the same equipment as the Hull Hospital, the CISSS de l'Outaouais would be issuing tenders to make sure they're properly stocked, Morissette said.

In addition to the relocations, dozens of surgeries have also been postponed, he added.

"The immediate impact is that we will have less elective surgeries done for the next few weeks," Morissette said. "But this is to permit us [to] identify solutions and give better service." 

Cancer patient waiting for surgery

Charlotte Meunier, who recently learned she had cancer, said it wasn't important where her surgery took place — as long as it was still going ahead.

"As long as I'm operated on and I'm fine, it [doesn't matter] where we're going," Meunier said in French.

One reason for the nursing shortage is that some employees on unpaid leave have not been replaced. Others are on extended sick leave or on maternity leave, and available positions haven't been filled.

The syndicat des professionnelles en soins de l'Outaouais, the union representing nurses at the Hull Hospital, told Radio-Canada last week that they had been aware of the nursing shortage in the operating room for some time — but in recent weeks, the situation had become critical.

Morissette said the CISSS de l'Outaouais is holding further meetings on Monday as they try to solve the crisis. 

With files from Radio-Canada