Quebec government must fully reopen Lachine Hospital now, doctors say

·3 min read
Dr. Paul Saba, president of the council of physicians at Lachine Hospital, says the medical facility must return to the way it was before the partial shut down. (CBC - image credit)
Dr. Paul Saba, president of the council of physicians at Lachine Hospital, says the medical facility must return to the way it was before the partial shut down. (CBC - image credit)

A staff shortage forced the reduction of services at the Lachine Hospital last month, and now a group of doctors is calling on the provincial government to reverse that decision.

"Our hospital has been closed for over a month to ambulances. We also don't have a functioning intensive care unit," said Dr. Paul Saba, president of the council of physicians at Lachine Hospital, which is located in the southwestern part of the city.

"We want this back up and functioning like it was before Nov. 8... We want our intensive care back, and we want our ambulances."

The hospital has functioned since 1913, and it should continue to serve the community, he said.

Premier François Legault's administration has opened bars and dance clubs by decree, and now advocates want the premier to use that power to open the hospital, Saba said, speaking alongside a group of medical professionals in front of the hospital.

The McGill University Health Centre (MUHC), which manages the hospital, reduced the emergency room hours to between 8 a.m. and 3 p.m. Ambulances are being re-routed, and only walk-ins are accepted.

MUHC says hospital will fully open next month

In a statement Friday, the MUHC said the decision to reduce services at the hospital was made in collaboration with the Ministry of Health.

"We are working very hard to restore full access to the Lachine Hospital emergency room for ambulatory patients," the statement said.

The MUHC is to fully reopen the Lachine Hospital on Jan. 10, 2022.

"In the meantime, the contingency plan in place is working well and offers the population safe alternatives," the MUHC said, noting efforts to modernize the hospital have not been slowed by the staff shortage.

Saba said it's time for the Legault government to force the MUHC to adequately staff the facility.

He said many of their health-care workers have left, taking salary bonuses downtown.

"We keep hearing from the MUHC that it's due to a collective agreement, so we're saying, OK, by-pass that, go directly to decree, provide all the incentives, provide all the bonuses," said Saba.

Philippe Grenier/Radio-Canada
Philippe Grenier/Radio-Canada

MNA Joël Arseneau said the issues at the Lachine Hospital point to a larger problem across the province.

Staffing shortages have forced many emergency rooms to temporarily close during the pandemic, and services were reduced as COVID-19 led to an influx of patients during a time when there weren't enough staff on hand to tend to the ill.

"I think what we're going through is absolutely outrageous," said Arseneau, who represents the Îles-de-la-Madeleine riding for the Parti québécois.

"It's unheard of that we have to fight to have an emergency ward that works 24 hours a day, seven days a week."

The reduction of services is being blamed for the recent death of a man northwest of Montreal.

The Quebec coroner's office said it will now investigate the death in Senneterre, a town in the Abitibi-Témiscamingue region.

Richard Genest, 65, died following a two-hour wait for an ambulance this week. His local emergency room's service had been scaled back due to staffing shortages.

The Ministry of Health did not respond to a request for comment Friday.

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