FIQ (Fédération Interprofessionnelle de la santé du Québec)

Summer crisis in ERs: a symptom of a generalized shortage

Summer crisis in ERs: a symptom of a generalized shortage

We knew it. It didn’t take a crystal ball to know that the situation in several emergency rooms would be very difficult this summer. But unlike in previous years, the workforce shortage is even more serious and the network is less prepared than ever to face the worst. This exceptional situation goes beyond what is happening in the emergency rooms making headlines. It is affecting all centres of activities.

And yet, managers were well-aware of the factors that could affect the service offer in the network over the summer. The workforce shortage started long before the pandemic. And summer vacations happen every year, just like the snow returns every winter. Managers are well-aware of the exodus of healthcare professionals, provoked by a coercive and harmful management style used over the last year, and they are no longer able to fill the vacant positions or unstaffed shifts.

Our expectations under the circumstances were legitimate. The institutions should have prepared ahead of time, determined priority centres of activities, set up contingency plans, organized services based on the number of staff available, and informed work teams and the population. The situation was foreseeable. The local teams offered a hand to find solutions and plan for the crisis. Yet, none of it happened. With no plan, managers took the dangerous road of managing on a day-to-day basis, frequently using MOT instead of providing some relief and taking some of the pressure off that has been there for months. This puts patients at risks, making the situation in the network explosive–simply unlivable.

Every week for a over a month, we have taken your message to the Minister of Health and Social Services. We have put pressure on him to implement our demands for the summer period. This exceptional situation calls for exceptional solutions.

It’s simple. There are no longer enough healthcare professionals to provide all the essential care and services to the population. As such, we have demanded that the ministry ensure that the services that remain open be organized based on the number of healthcare professionals available. To get through the summer and continue providing quality services to the population, imposing mandatory overtime is simply no longer an option. This devastating management approach has to stop now.  Additional measures are urgently needed to take some of the pressure of the network: Safe ratios must be followed, operating rooms should only be used for urgent cases, spots in residential centres must be opened immediately, there should be summer premiums without conditions for work shifts. Healthcare professionals should not have to pay the price for the years of bad management that have led to the crisis we are seeing today.

It’s time to repair the network and drastically change the culture. There’s no more room for MOT, negligence, and abuse of power in the network. With this serious shortage of healthcare professionals, there is no more room for flexibility. It’s time to make difficult choices. The government has to change methods before activities resume in September.

Your mobilization over the last few weeks turned up the pressure on managers. We are determined to see change in the situation in the field. You have the right to take back control of your life and to provide care in safe, humane, respectful conditions. As the whole province relaxes restrictions, the summer is when you should be able to take time to recharge your battery and spend time with your loved ones.

We will be here all summer to keep an eye out.