MONTREAL -- All indications are that Quebec health-care personnel will be able to take a well-deserved vacation this summer, an intention already confirmed by one of the busiest health adn social services centres (CIUSSS) in the province.

Last year, several institutions imposed a maximum of two weeks of vacation on their staff, particularly nurses, based on a ministerial order from the Quebec government.

This order gave each CIUSSS and CISSS the power to impose this constraint in order to ensure continuity of care during emergency periods.

Minister of Health Christian Dube's office confirmed to The Canadian Press that the ministerial order is still in effect and "will remain in effect for the short term".

Dube's office added however that "vacations will take place according to what is foreseen in the conventions," and that it is "very confident, not to say certain, that this year it will be possible."

In another message, Dube's office stated that "the minister is putting everything in place to ensure that there will be a succession for the summer in the health network, so that our health personnel, throughout Quebec, will be able to take a well-deserved vacation."


The Federation interprofessionnelle de la sante du Quebec (FIQ), which vigorously protested the limit when its members were on the verge of exhaustion last year, told The Canadian Press that no institution to date has indicated its intention to limit its employees' vacation time.

But the union is wary that the ministerial order is still in place, which would allow an institution to re-impose the vacation time limit in the event of a severe outbreak.

FIQ president Nancy Bedard issued a clear warning to institutions that would be inclined to do so: "At the present time, it is clear and agreed with the Minister of Health and Social Services that summer vacations would be given according to the collective agreements of each institution. There is no institution that can take away the right of care professionals to have vacations this summer. This is non-negotiable, despite the maintenance of Order 007."


A first official announcement came this week from CIUSSS du Centre-Sud-de-l'Ile-de-Montreal president and CEO Sonia Belanger.

"Last summer we asked our staff to restrict their vacation period... because there was a huge shortage of staff, so to allow everyone to leave for two weeks," she said. "This summer there is no such constraint. So people can take vacations according to the usual rules and according to their wishes.

"I think that will make a big difference in the summer that's coming up, where staff will be able to go on vacation," she added.

Still, Belanger acknowledged that there is still staff missing after the third wave of the COVID-19 pandemic.

"There is some exhaustion," she said. "(But) the pressure right now is not the same (as last year) on staff."

Belanger noted that the network has added a lot of support staff and thousands of orderlies, among others.

"It is true that there is still a lack of professionals, but at the same time, the network is mobilizing and transforming its ways of doing things," she said.

Belanger pointed out, however, that relief for medical personnel rests largely on the shoulders of the population.

"I think that getting vaccinated is the best gift we can give to health care workers to avoid having sick people in hospitals," she said.

-- this report by The Canadian Press was first published in French on May 22, 2021.