MONTREAL -- The McGill University Hospital Centre (MUHC) says a shortage of nurses has forced the Lachine Hospital to close down its intensive care unit for the holidays.

The unit will be closed from Friday (Dec. 20) to January 6.

It marks the first time the hospital has had to close the unit due to a staffing shortage, according to MUHC spokesperson Gilda Salomone.

The MUHC will not be turning away patients who need critical care, Salomone said; two ICU beds out of the usual five in the Lachine ICU have been moved to the hopital's emergency department. Salomone said "patient safety and access will be ensured."

Patients requiring intensive care may also be sent to other MUHC hospitals, including the Glen site and the Montreal General Hospital, Salomone said.

Despite a record number of nursing licences being issued in Quebec over the past year, the province's hospitals are still struggling with a nursing shortage.

"The challenges with manpower in the healthcare sector affect the whole province of Quebec," Salomone said. "The MUHC has a proactive recruitment plan, however, the situation at Lachine is exceptional this season."