Nurses' protest in Quebec City spurs impromptu visit from health minister

The era of “guardian angels” seemed to come to an end this week, as the angels said they’re near to burning out and need concrete help instead of praise.

On Tuesday, a group of Quebec nurses marched and chanted slogans in front of the provincial legislature, prompting Health Minister Danielle McCann to walk out to the street to meet them.

Premier François Legault didn't do the same, saying later that he wasn’t impressed.

“I don't think it's time to be on the street in front of my office," said Legault.

He said he knows the nurses are tired, but the staffing problems haven’t been easy to solve. The province has tried to hire, but there aren’t enough trained candidates available, he said.

The protesters said that they and their colleagues are at a breaking point. As many as 5,000 workers are off the job because of COVID-19, says the FIQ health workers’ union. 

"In the last few weeks, the last few months, they've gone above and beyond to protect the population of Quebec, whether it's overtime, forced overtime, working every weekend, every night,” said Roberto Bomba, an executive officer at FIQ.

On top of the current workload, the hospitals will soon begin working through long backlogs of postponed surgeries.

Bomba says nurses need relief, starting with some time off—nurses have had their vacation time cancelled, and part-time workers have been made to work full-time. 

“What they've been doing in the last few weeks, simply imposing decree after decree, for us it's totally unacceptable,” said Bomba.

McCann came outside to tell the protesters that she’s trying her best to solve the vacation issue.

"We're examining every region, and we will give the maximum of holidays, if we have enough staff to replace them,” she said.

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