Staff shortage at Gatineau Hospital leads to 2-hour protest

A group of nurses at the Gatineau Hospital held an on-the-job protest Saturday morning after an exhausted colleague was told she needed to stay after finishing a 12-hour shift.

8 nurses stayed to work with their colleague in a show of solidarity

Staffing at the Gaitneau Hospital has been stretched thin this summer, due to vacation requests and an increase in patients. Those pressures led to a two-hour protest involving a group of nurses Saturday morning. (CBC)

A group of nurses at the Gatineau Hospital held an on-the-job protest Saturday morning after an exhausted colleague was told she needed to stay after finishing a 12-hour shift.

The summer season has left the Gatineau, Que. hospital with limited staff and resources, and a combination of vacation requests and a surge in patients has forced management to ask nurses to work mandatory overtime.

The situation came to a head Saturday when the nurse in question said she was too fatigued to carry out her duties.

In a show of solidarity, eight other nurses stayed to work with their colleague, attempting to force the hospital to pay them all roughly two hours of overtime.

The details of the workplace protest were confirmed to Radio-Canada by the nurses' union and some of the nurses who took part.

Nurse shortage

The situation led to a meeting between the hospital and the union.

"We are already asking our nurses and licensed practical nurses to work many extra hours and mandatory overtime," said union representative Patrick Guay in French.

"It's not up to them to solve the shortage."

Guay told Radio-Canada that the number of nurses scheduled to work was insufficient.

"When we are in a situation where we ourselves are lacking help, it is difficult to give [patients] the care they are entitled to," he said.

Petition circulating

The Outaouais Integrated Health and Social Services Centre (CISSS), the organization that oversees hospital operations, described the incident as a minor human resources matter.

A spokesperson for the CISSS called it an "imbroglio," telling Radio-Canada that it came down to a misunderstanding of the union convention.

After a meeting with the union, the nine nurses were sent home. According to the CISSS, the nurses were no longer needed after the two hours of overtime.

Before the protest, a petition from the union had already been circulating, demanding better working conditions.

With files from Antoine Trépanier