MONTREAL -- Some 400 former nurses who had recently left the profession are stepping in to help their colleagues on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic.

That’s the total number of 'special health emergency authorizations' that were in the process of being granted Monday afternoon.

The government announced in mid-March that this might be a possibility, and these health professionals answered the call.

Some are already on the job in hospitals and care centres in several regions around Quebec - in Abitibi, Mauricie, Montreal and Saguenay, among others - and others will likely be added as more special permits are issued.

Health Minister Danielle McCann made these reinforcements possible by publishing a ministerial decree on March 15 to allow nurses who have left the profession within the last five years and who are under 70 years old to return to practice.

Since that date, the Quebec Order of Nurses (OIIQ) had already issued many of these special authorizations.

As of Friday afternoon, 385 have already been delivered and the Order expected the total to be 400 by the end of the day on Monday. These nurses will then be able to help during the current health crisis.

These nurses will not become members of the Order, but will be subject to the same ethical obligations and rules of the profession, the OIIQ stated.

Special authorizations are not automatically granted: the OIIQ is responsible for ensuring that nurses who work with the public have the skills required to do so, and it is therefore checking the file for each request sent.