MONTREAL -- After weeks of attempts to lure and retain nurses to the public health-care system, Quebec Health Minister Christian Dubé announced the numbers are going up, bit by bit.

For the last two months, Dubé has repeated that the province is short about 4,000 nurses.

Over "recent weeks," 408 new people have been added to those ranks, including:

  • 25 people who came out of retirement
  • 102 recruitments from "independent work"
  • 281 who were working part-time and converted to full-time

In the longer timespan, the numbers are higher, with a total of 2,164 added throughout the current month-old staffing campaign.

In a press release Thursday, the health department didn't make the exact timeframes clear, but suggested these numbers are only from the past week.

The broader effort began on Sept. 23, when the province announced "a new management model and incentives" to attract nursing staff as well as cardio-respiratory staff.

The biggest overall gain so far as been among 1,628 people who were working part-time and have agreed to go full-time over the last month.

The province is currently also negotiating with almost 2,800 potential candidates, an increase of 400 compared to last week.

“We are grateful for the efforts that are being made and the solidarity of the people who will lend a hand in the network," Dubé was quoted as saying.

"It is a major culture change that is underway."

The province is working on improving the work conditions for nurses and bringing other incentives, said the release. It has already announced bonuses, though nurses have said the main thing they want right now is an end to mandatory overtime.

"Several means will make it possible to improve the work-life balance of nurses... to offer stable and predictable schedules, and to reduce the workload," the province said.

It's focusing especially on eliminating compulsory overtime and decreasing the use of private nursing agencies, giving "more stable" fixed-pay and hourly salaries and allowing more "self-management" of schedules.

More nurses will disappear from the province's health-care system on Nov. 15, when the staff vaccine deadline comes into effect.