MONTREAL -- The number of hospitalizations due to COVID-19 in Quebec is expected to rise in the coming weeks and health-care workers are stepping up their demands for improved working conditions.

Hospitals in the province are supposed to have 2,000 beds available for COVID-19 patients, and currently, 740 are occupied by patients fighting the disease.

Medical staff say they're hardly equipped to face the current rise in cases, as the system is already having trouble coping.

"It doesn't do your hospital any good if you have the beds if the nurses are sick, infected or burned out," said Dr. Matthew Oughton.

Hundreds of health-care professionals have already quit their jobs, and the union representing health-care workers in Laval and Eastern Quebec, the CSQ, said it's members are not equipped to deal with more cases.

"The premier admitted the health-care system is running out of breath," said Sonia Ethier of the CSQ.

Health-care workers say, however, that they were already overburdened before the pandemic and many haven't had a break since March.

"It's getting worse every day," said Federation Sante Quebec's Claire Montour.

They are demanding the following:

  • Stop making workers move from one institution to another.
  • Remove special privileges for private health-care workers by forcing them to share weekend and night shifts.
  • Stop mandatory overtime.

In addition, they want the government to improve the supply of personal protective equipment (PPE).

"We received a batch three weeks ago, even though it was available in April, but it was tied up by paperwork," said Montour.

Health Minister Christian Dube has promised a new hiring blitz in the coming months to address some of the issues, but health-care professionals question whether it will come too late to prevent a breakdown in the system in the coming months.