Updated: Aug 17
This summer has been devastating for hospitals province-wide; at the beginning of the summer, The Lakeshore General announced its Emergency Room (ER) had reached maximum capacity and that it was to be avoided at all costs.
On June 10th, the President of Le Syndicat des professionnelles en soins de santé de l’Ouest-de-l’Île-de-Montréal (SPSSODIM), Johanne Riendeau, stated in a press release: "We have an occupancy rate that exceeds 150%, and we are missing at least half of the nurses on several shifts, thus missing 4.5 or 6 nurses per shift."
The release from the SPSSODIM called on the Government to provide "incentives to get through the summer and obtain safe ratios to provide quality care to the population of the West Island."
Eighteen-year veteran Nathan Friedland is an emergency room nurse at the Lakeshore General Hospital. He opened up to the West Island News in an effort to shed light on the grim situation. Many doctors and nurses have refused to speak out for fear of losing their jobs. Friedland witnessed the strain placed on Québec ERs firsthand.
"In Québec's ERs, we violate the Canadian Triage and Acuity Scale every minute of every day, even on the most basic level," Friedland stated.
Often, Friedland explained that ERs are so drastically understaffed that the triage of patients upon arrival will not occur within 10 minutes, which is the time constraint in which the Canadian Triage and Acuity Scale states that this assessment should take place. Priority 1 (P1) and Priority 2 (P2) patients are suffering from a health crisis requiring immediate or rapid action that poses an imminent threat to their lives. Friedland believes that those cases are handled as they should be; however, the problems arise beginning with Priority 3 (P3) patients.
"A P3 means you have a serious condition, but it is not life-threatening, and you are supposed to be seen within 30 minutes," Friedland explained. "This is where ERs are dropping the ball big time. I've seen P3s wait 6-8-12 hours to get seen. This has become routine. Often, these patients won't even get re-evaluated by a nurse after they have been triaged again due to a lack of staff. The result? They wait on their stretchers or in the waiting room and decompensate. Some die."
In these cases, Nathan believes that legal action should be taken against the Government and become a class-action lawsuit.
Friedland strongly believes in mandating nurse-to-patient ratios to prevent these violations;
"The worst thing a nurse experiences on the job is not being able to do work properly because she/he has too many patients. (Legalized ratios) would keep nurses in the profession and bring more in."
The staff shortage is undoubtedly a primary factor in the system's collapse. Friedland has alerted his concerns to upper management but feels they have fallen upon deaf ears; "Apathy in healthcare is like cancer, and it's very dangerous for patients."
"There is also a poor orientation program for new nurses and a non-existent retention program for these nurses in ERs," Nathan continues, "No repercussions for that either. Make no mistake about it; many ERs are very poorly managed."
Nathan believes another solution to protect nurses and keep the healthcare system afloat is holding management teams accountable when their leadership leads employees astray.