The Quebec government is leaving people in need of care and could endanger lives by partially closing several emergency rooms across the province, doctors and advocates warn of patients’ rights.
Faced with one staff shortage expected To make matters worse when the holiday season begins, the province announced on Wednesday that it will reduce services at six emergency rooms this summer.
But the government was urged to either reconsider the decision or provide concrete alternatives to avoid causing gaps in care over the coming months.
“No community emergency room should be closed, ever,” said Dr. Paul Saba, the head of police Lachine Hospital Medical Council.
“It increases the risk of mortality, especially for time-sensitive diseases such as heart attacks, strokes and serious infectious diseases. Studies have confirmed this.”
Quebec Health Minister Christian Dubé announced the service cuts on Wednesday, saying the government had no choice as there were not enough available health workers.
A total of 59,600 employees are expected to be absent from the health network this summer. That’s almost 8,000 more than last year.
In a speech to reporters in Quebec City, Dubé said there are a number of reasons for the shortage.
Some workers have left the network completely, some are being treated for lang COVID and many others are getting summer vacation this year after not being allowed to hold one last year.
“The main reason it’s getting harder is because the government has given a clear commitment to nurses and all staff that there would be holidays this summer,” Dubé said. “It is normal for people to want to rest. Our nurses have been working really hard for the last two years. ”
However, the Minister did not hide the effects of the shortage.
“It’s going to be a tough summer,” Dubé said. “We know we’ll have to reorganize services, but we work with leaders to minimize the impact.”
There are 117 emergency rooms in Quebec.
Emergency services will be partially closed at Coaticook Hospital in Eastern Townships, Windsor Emergency Department, La Mitis Hospital in Lower St. Lawrence region and the emergency clinics of Fortierville in the Mauricie region and Témiscaming-Kipawa in Abitibi-Témiscamingue.
The emergency room at Lachine Hospital will also continue to operate on a reduced schedule and remain closed to ambulances at night.
In an interview Wednesday, patient rights lawyer Paul Brunet said the shortage was predictable and that the government should have been ready with a better solution.
The chairman of the Council for the Protection of Maladies, Brunet, said it was unacceptable to close emergency rooms without offering other options to those who trust them.
“Patients are stuck,” Brunet said.
“How about offering an alternative? Or looking for alternatives? Doing a little more than just saying, ‘Oh yeah, we have to close the emergency rooms,'” he added, “is not the way to treat patients.”
In a statement, the health ministry said it is working to find ways to ensure that quebecers will have access to frontline health services.
It also urged people to avoid going to emergency rooms if possible, or to pick one that is nearby and open using the 811 phone line.
Dubé said despite the shortage that Quebec does not envisage any decrease in the number of operations that will be performed. The province is still trying to catch up backlog created during the pandemic.
According to The Health Index’s websiteas of Wednesday night, the highest ER occupancy rates in the Montreal area were at Royal Victoria Hospital (185 percent capacity), Jewish General Hospital (181 percent) and Lakeshore General Hospital (165 percent).
Montreal’s emergency rooms are overcrowded as health shortages continue
Santa Cabrini has until September to show how the waiting times at the emergency room have improved