Nurses’ workloads are expected to ease considerably in the coming years following a major reform of patient-nurse ratios announced Thursday.

Health Minister Gaétan Barrette was all smiles in a press conference as he listed the main points of the plan.

The initiative will require an injection of several hundreds of millions of additional dollars into the healthcare system, as well as the likely hiring of hundreds, if not thousands, of nurses and other health professionals.

After months of pressure from nurses, who said they were exhausted and crumbling under the weight of their workloads, as well as months of negotiations with the FIQ, Barrette agreed that the situation was not tenuous. He agreed to tackle the problem of overworking nurses.

The solution to the problem will be a significant, drastic reduction in the number of patients under the responsibility of each nurse.

In the coming months, Québec will create an initial 17 pilot projects in each of Quebec's regions, with the goal of determining the optimal patient-nurse ratio in each situation. That ratio may vary depending on, for example, an emergency room, surgery room or CHSLD.

The first of these projects will begin in mid-April at the Lakeshore General Hospital in the West Island.

Barrette gave an example of the plans for a long-tern care facility in his announcement.

"Overnight, today it's between 75 and 96 patients per nurse, and we will start with those projects between 37 and 44 per nurse, so that’s a very significant reduction of workload for the nurses and that will be applied in all the projects we are rolling out. At the end of the day if that’s the end result that we conclude, it will be implemented across the province," he said.

If the experiment is conclusive, Barrette said he will commit to extending the formula throughout the network. He did not give an exact deadline.

- With files from CTV Montreal