Laval hospital maternity ward halved for weekend as staff shortage stretches services thin

Angela MacKenzie, CTV Montreal

A Laval hospital has closed more than half the beds in its maternity ward this weekend because it doesn't have enough staff.

While there are many women ready to give birth, the staff shortage has pushed the Cité-de-la-Santé hospital in Laval to restrict capacity, leaving half of the 13 maternity beds out of commission.

Dr. Judy Morris, head of the Quebec Association of Emergency Room Physicians, says staffing across Quebec has been stretched thin, leaving gaps in specialized areas.

In the “[emergency room], ICU, maternity wards, these are areas where they need specialized personnel,” said Morris.

In the last month, emergency rooms across Quebec have been stretched well beyond capacity.

Morris says not enough has been done to address staff shortages in hospitals, especially among nurses.

“There's … a lack of personnel. That has a huge impact on care [and the] number of beds available,” she said.

What’s more, MUHC Nurse Naveed Hussain says there has been an influx of patients seeking care for health concerns long put off due to the pandemic.

Some, he says, don't need to be at the hospital, adding that the province should to more to strengthen other avenues to receive care and information.

“811, Info-Sante, the CLSCs: we need to empower these structures so people will call these places first and get the care they need.”

Hospitals, he said, should be “the last resort.”

Weeks ago, Health Minister Christian Dube called on medical clinics to increase their hours, and for family doctors to see more patients in person.

Morris says the province needs to deal, first and foremost, with the staffing crisis.

She says the province ought to give incentives for nurses to return to vacated positions, and to force private nursing agencies to fill more shifts.

Otherwise, some worry hospitals will be forced to close more beds in the months to come.

“I am worried,” said Hussain. “Do we see an end in sight?”

“Especially with the flu season coming up in the fall and winter,” he said, “and possibly another rise in COVID-19 cases due to variants.”

“Can we sustain as we go along?”

The Laval regional health authority says it has deployed a number of measures to make sure patients are well cared for at the Cité-de-la-Santé maternity ward.

Hospitals in neighbouring regions may be asked to take on patients, if necessary, it said.