MONTREAL -- Nurses at the Lakeshore General are asking people to stay away from the Emergency Room this weekend, saying the hospital is suffering from a chronic shortage of nurses.

The union representing the hospital's nurses said shortages has become “critical.”

“It's the most critical we've seen all summer,” said FIQ Vice-President of Communication Elizabeth Rich. “Last evening, there was only eight nurses and one in orientation. They had 135 per cent capacity.”

Rich said the ER should have 14 nurses working when it's at full capacity.

Last month, nurses organized a sit-in to protest staff shortages. The regional health authority said extra staff was sent to the Lakeshore General and a service corridor has been set up with St. Mary's Hospital.

Patients' rights advocate Paul Brunet said those measures have fallen short.

“How about people who don't drive, who don't have a car?” he said. “Are any of these bureaucrats thinking about people who don't have a car and would have to get to St. Mary's? That doesn't make sense.”

Rich said St. Mary's is suffering from the same issues as the Lakeshore.

“They have a lack of personnel, they're always minus nurses on every shift,” she said.

FIQ Vice-President Denyse Joseph said the issue lies with hiring staff.

“We're going to be in September, they're going to post positions that have been vacant since the beginning of the year,” she said. “It's way too late because when you recruit people to work in an emergency department, you need to train them. It's a minimum, just the basic training for an emergency nurse is six weeks.”

Joseph said staff shortages may be nothing new, but with a second wave of COVID-19 possibly on the horizon, she fears the province's ERs could be pushed to their breaking point.