The only free drug and alcohol detox centre in Montreal has been forced to close one third of its beds after half of nurses resigned en masse due to working conditions.

Nurses at the Dollard Cormier Centre were doing double-overtime shifts and said they couldn’t handle the stress anymore.

Out of 12 nurses, six quit exhausted and in tears, after hearing management tell them since last fall that it would hire more nurses.

As a result, the centre has decided that for the safety of the staff and patients, it must close 10 of its 28 beds.

Josianne Moreau, president of the union of health care workers said the nurses would come in not knowing if they would be working an eight- or 16-hour shift.

The detox centre hopes to re-open the beds in a matter of weeks when it has hired more nurses, but have been trying to hire more nurses for months.

With a well-known nursing shortage in the province, attracting nurses to these jobs – which often include evening and night shifts – is proving difficult.

The health care management largely agrees with the union.

Health Minister Gaetan Barrette said the union and the detox centre should work it out amongst themselves.

“It has to be addressed first by the unions and management. We'll have conversations with them to see where they are going and if they are going in the right direction. And if it is needed, intervention on my part, I will intervene,” he said.

Moreau said the employees quit for their own mental health, a situation in a small setting that the union says is being repeated in many other health care facilities in the province.