Nurses walking off job at Lakeshore General over chronic staffing shortages

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Nurses at the Lakeshore General Hospital are trying to put pressure on management, saying an ongoing staffing shortage is putting both patients and staff at risk.

On Saturday, a team of nurses scheduled to work the evening shift in the emergency room refused to do so, saying they were too short-staffed to be effective.

“They had 120 per cent capacity and they only had 10 nurses,” said Elizabeth Rich of the Quebec nurses' union, FIQ.

When the Lakeshore ER is at full capacity, regulations call for 14 nurses to be working, or roughly one for every two patients.

Rich said shortages mean fewer nurses in triage and code rooms and ratios of four and sometimes five patients per nurse. On Saturday, the assistant head nurse who is responsible for coordinating much of the ER's services was forced to leave their post to work on the floor due to a lack of nurses.

“They knew it was very dangerous, it's critical care,” said Rich. “People are unstable. It's very difficult for them to have a safe environment with that kind of personnel.”

Saturday's incident was the fourth sit-in at the Lakeshore so far this summer, though it was not a planned protest. Sit-ins are illegal for nurses and Rich said those who took part put themselves at risk of being sanctioned by their employer.

“They could lose their seniority, they could be suspended, they can lose the prime of $1,000 that the government gives them,” she said. “There's a lot at stake.”

None of the nurses involved were willing to speak publicly but Rich said it's the job of Quebec's premier to fix the staffing issue.

“He has to make the profession more attractive. For sure, the employer is trying to recruit,” she said. “He does recruit, but people leave.”

According to Rich, 39 ER nurses at the Lakeshore have quit in the past two years, and there are currently 19 vacant full-time jobs that can't be filled.

The West Island Health Authority did not respond to a request for comment.  

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