The pressure on the healthcare system is so unsustainable that the Quebec government has recently been on the verge of initiating the Protocol for Prioritizing Patients in Critical Care. As the province struggles with a major outbreak of Covid-19, our nurses and respiratory therapists are stepping down.
At Maisonneuve-Rosemont Hospital in Montreal, 166 nurses and 7 respiratory therapists left their positions between March 15 and September 7. Meanwhile, this same hospital, the fourth largest in Quebec, is in an advanced state of precariousness despite the enormous pressure in intensive care.
How did we get here?
The crying lack of resources in the hospital environment is a problem that has unfortunately been known for too long.
It is a difficulty that we, the users’ committees, are well aware of since, given our mission, we independently ensure that the rights of users in each health care institution are respected. At the base of these fundamental rights is the right to services according to which a patient must be able to “have access to and receive the necessary services such as examinations, samples, care, treatment or any other intervention”.
This seems obvious, but for users to have access to this care, the institution must be able to provide it.
At Maisonneuve-Rosemont Hospital alone, 150 of the 550 available beds are currently closed due to a lack of nursing staff. In addition, the hospital has been designated as a front-line facility in the fight against the VIDOC-19 pandemic, despite the deterioration of the building and the known dilapidation of its facilities, which have no single or negative pressure rooms, nor air conditioning. The Ministère de la Santé et des Services sociaux gave Maisonneuve-Rosemont a grade of D, indicating the high level of deterioration and deficiency of the infrastructure.
So let me ask the question again: but how did we get here?
Cuts in the health sector have been commonplace for several years, regardless of the government in power. The underfunding of medical facilities and personnel is a complex issue, but one that deserves greater attention from our leaders as they are the very people who are currently working to save our lives.
CURBING THE EXODUS
Why is it that for years we have been letting our hospital staff work double and even triple shifts? Why is it that working in a hospital automatically involves mandatory overtime and facility transfers when vacations are not guaranteed, as some found out to their cost this summer? How is it that we are watching, helplessly, the exodus of our hospital staff to the private sector?
The agreement reached in December with the Fédération interprofessionnelle de la santé du Québec, concerning the improvement of nurses’ working conditions, is a good start.
The least we can do now is to make these changes to all the professions in the hospital environment and guarantee everyone a work environment worthy of the name.
It may be too late now to ask these questions. But I would hope that this pandemic has taught us one lesson – that we are collectively interdependent. If we don’t work together to address a problem adequately, it will grow. A magnitude that, as we see it now, could become, sooner rather than later, a matter of life and death.
– Maisonneuve-Rosemont Hospital Users’ Committee