In its press briefing on Tuesday, the government was clearly hot and cold. Premier Legault made vaccinations mandatory for all health and social services network staff (those who refuse will be suspended without pay) and then lamented that the nurse shortage is keeping him up at night. He and his health minister are, apparently, looking for solutions.
Unfortunately, this government only has itself to blame. We repeatedly warned it that healthcare professionals need kindness and respect. Healthcare professionals increasingly stepped up to denounce what was happening by whatever means they could. Despite all of this, the government continues to use an authoritarian approach, as it has been for the last 18 months—with ministerial orders—and the mandatory vaccination order is just one in a long list.
Is vaccination important? Absolutely. But is it currently the biggest challenge in the health network when the majority of staff is vaccinated? The answer is no. And Mr. Legault and Dubé need to stop getting lost in the details. They can’t see the forest for the trees. What is happening in the network at the moment is extremely worrisome. There are already too few healthcare professionals to provide all patient care, whether they have COVID-19 or not.
The two biggest factors that cause healthcare professionals to fall ill, resign and leave the public network for private agencies are mandatory overtime and the work overload exacerbated by impossible healthcare professional-to-patient ratios. This exodus was already well on its way before the pandemic, but it has kicked into high gear in the last few months.
If Mr. Legault has forgotten the many solutions our organization has repeatedly proposed to his government to curb the exodus and try to retain and get healthcare professionals to come back to the network over the short, medium and long-term, then I suggest he sit down and talk with healthcare professionals who currently work in the network. He will see that the solutions are based on a basic principle: common sense. They mainly want to be properly staffed on their shift so they can provide safe care, know their work schedule in advance, and not be repeatedly forced to do overtime. They are not only healthcare professionals!
That’s right! And we would also encourage Mr. Legault to sit down and talk with a healthcare professional who has left the public network to work in a private agency. Chances are that they would explain that they left the public system because there’s no common sense left in it.