ER doctors beg Quebec to save ‘shipwrecked’ health care system

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Emergency doctors working for eastern Montreal’s regional health authority are telling Quebec’s health minister that immediate and wide-ranging action is required to salvage the province’s “shipwrecked” health care system.

In an open letter published Monday, the doctors warn that “the elastic can only be stretched so far.”

“Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, departures of health care personnel have outpaced arrivals. At Maisonneuve-Rosemont hospital, half the nursing positions and three-quarters of the respiratory therapists posts are vacant. Many beds in intensive care are closed because of a lack of staff … 25 per cent of the acute care beds on floors are closed.”

The doctors blame deteriorating work conditions for the lack of nursing staff, work conditions exacerbated by the decision by many public-sector nurses to work for private agencies with better pay and scheduling.

They also cite an administrative logjam that sees patients who should have been discharged from hospital remain there because of a lack of spaces in long-term centres or convalescent homes.

The letter challenges Quebec Health Minister Christian Dubé to reduce the use of private nursing agencies by government decree — allowing them to be eligible only to work in public institutions on nights and weekends. It also wants spaces found for all non-acute care patients marooned in Montreal area hospitals and a full reform of working conditions in the public health care sector to stop the flow of departures.

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