Quebec persists and signs on compulsory vaccination, despite service disruptions

While the Legault government struggles to find solutions to the shortage of nurses, another hospital – that of Suroît, in Montérégie – had to close the outpatient services of its emergency on Thursday due to a lack of personnel. A situation destined to repeat itself after October 15, with the possible sidelining of 20,000 network employees who are still unvaccinated.

Suroît Hospital, located in Salaberry-de-Valleyfield, had to close the ambulatory services of his emergency until 4 p.m. Ten daytime emergency nurses had to work compulsory overtime (OST) in the evening on Wednesday. Thursday morning, six were absent.

The news of the closure fell in the morning, while elected officials were debating at the National Assembly the shortage of nurses. “When we see everything that has happened since the start of the week, how can the Prime Minister tell us that we are still in control in the health network? »Launched the leader of the opposition, Dominique Anglade, to the Prime Minister, Francois Legault.

In the Suroît emergency, we had tried everything on Wednesday to keep the boat at sea, says the Union of Healthcare Professionals of Montérégie-Ouest (FIQ-SPSMO). “When the night shift arrived, the employees realized that the [quantité] there was not enough staff to come and relieve them of their duties, ”says union president Mélanie Gignac. “So, the head of the emergency room came back, we have directors who put on their uniforms and who came to work on the floor! “

The shortage of employees is more than glaring at the Suroît hospital. ” The Titanic, it’s been a long time since it sank! »Says Mélanie Gignac.

However, the shortage of nurses in Suroît is neither an isolated case nor a new phenomenon. At the Shawville hospital in Pontiac, the shortage has forced the obstetrics department to close since February 2020. A measure that was originally intended to be temporary.

Same scenario at the nursery at the Sept-Îles hospital, at the obstetrics department at the Matane hospital and at the Senneterre emergency room, in Abitibi-Témiscamingue …

In this context, some believe that the government should reverse its decision to make vaccination compulsory on October 15, a measure which will deprive the network of 20,000 additional employees.

The government “stubbornly”, according to the head of the Quebec Party, Paul St-Pierre-Plamondon. “It makes no sense to put nurses on unpaid suspension when we have this shortage. “

Contingency plans

The Minister of Health, Christian Dubé, however excludes any retreat in this regard. “It is always the right choice to recommend compulsory vaccination,” he said Wednesday. The good news, he added, is that the imposition of the vaccine has caused 10,000 employees to be vaccinated in the past two weeks.

This does not prevent the government from apprehending service disruptions. Mr. Dubé also asked the CEOs of the CISSS to submit contingency plans for October 15, in particular to move patients from one hospital to another as needed.

As the deadline approaches, the alert level varies from one facility to another. “We do not even have the capacity to lose a single employee,” said Mélanie Gignac, of the nursing union at the Suroit hospital.

Ironically, some members of her union do not want to be vaccinated and “immediately agree to be suspended,” she said. “There are some who are so tired that this is what they expect,” says Mélanie Gignac.

Elsewhere, it is the low staff vaccination rate that is of concern. For example, at the Polish Marie-Curie-Sklodowska CHSLD, affiliated with the CIUSSS de l’Est-de-l’Île-de-Montréal, 35% of employees in contact with patients had not received their two doses by the date of September 8.

The Dre Sophie Zhang, assistant co-head of accommodation at the CIUSSS du Center-Sud-de-l’Île-de-Montréal, is worried about the effects of the coercive vaccine approach. “In some centers [CHSLD] with nurse and nursing assistant shortages, there are up to 40% of positions that are vacant, she said. She also finds “quite reasonable” the current “protective measure” of testing unvaccinated employees three times a week.

Conversely, at the CIUSSS du Center-Ouest-de-l’Île-de-Montréal, no service disruption is envisaged. The problem of OSI (compulsory overtime) does not exist at the Jewish General Hospital in Montreal. “We are looking at who may not be there on October 15 and to ensure that we will have work schedules that will cover all the shifts to provide care to the sick,” said Lucie Tremblay, director of nursing care and vaccination at the CIUSSS. We’re not talking about closing beds. Not at all. “

Millions for attraction

Karine D’Auteuil, interim president of the Union of Healthcare Professionals of the Outaouais, for her part, would like the government to show “flexibility” for employees who received their first dose of vaccine this week and who do not. will not be adequately vaccinated on the 15th. “There are a few members who have called us about this,” she said.

We must not back down on compulsory vaccination, says Dr.r Gilbert Boucher, President of the Quebec Association of Emergency Medicine Specialists. “We see the fourth wave coming, and the chances that these people [employés non vaccinés] are infected are very, very large, he says. When infected, caregivers must be off work for two weeks, he says.

Meanwhile, the government is still working on its “robust” plan to recruit 4,000 nurses this fall into the network. On Thursday, Minister Dubé maintained that the strategy would be ready next week.

Among the options on the table: bonuses, the possibility for retirees to keep their pensions even if they are employed and more competitive salaries.

This will cost “several hundred million dollars,” said Finance Minister Eric Girard, while stressing that these are “temporary” measures. Once the shortage has been absorbed, the government thinks it can withdraw these incentives since the benefits of the new nurses’ employment contract will then be felt.

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