MONTREAL -- A Quebec nurses' union says that about 1,700 nurses quit the profession during the first four months or so of the pandemic.

Compared to the normal rate of resignations and early retirements, the number between March and about August were "much worse," said Denyse Joseph, a vice-president at the FIQ union.

It wasn't necessarily surprising, though, she said in an interview with CTV News.

"They have to work with the pressure, day after day in the health care system," Joseph said.

She also slammed the provincial government for how it treated its nursing workforce and how those decisions ended up affecting them. A provincial decree banned the use of vacation time during the peak of the pandemic, even in areas of the province that were seeing very few cases in the spring, she said.

That meant that when summer came around, even though most nurses did end up being able to take their two weeks off at some point, many of them couldn't schedule their vacations to coincide with immediate family -- some are only now able to take their two weeks, Joseph said.

"Usually when you talk about summer vacation, you like to have your vacation during the summer... well, most of them were not able to have their vacation with their family and husband and children," she said.

The moves were short-sighted considering how much the province will be relying on these workers, she said.

"They knew they needed the health care professionals to [get] through this first pandemic wave," she said.

"But instead of treating them with respect, recogniz[ing] their work, no, they sanctioned them with decrees."

Watch the video above for Joseph's full interview.