School nurses could be forced to cover Lakeshore Hospital ER
The day after the tabling of a scathing report on the state of care provided in the emergency department of the Lakeshore General Hospital in Pointe-Claire on Montreal's West Island, the 135 recommendations are already being dealt a heavy blow.
According to the nurses' union, management plans to use school staff to cover the emergency department this summer.
In the conclusion of her report, the independent investigator mandated by the Ministry of Health and Social Services, Francine Dupuis, writes that "the emergency department needs competent staff."
She added that "staff must be well trained, have good judgement and be good listeners (...), because they don't have much time to make up their minds about each case."
Furthermore, in recommendation number 54, Dupuis calls for "never allowing a new nurse to work in the field if she has not received full training in emergency care."
A trained nurse herself, the former deputy CEO of the Centre West Island of Montreal health and social services centre (CIUSSS du Centre-Ouest-de-l'Île-de-Montreal) pointed out that this is "a specialized and complex department" and that expertise is as crucial as it is in operating theatres or intensive care units.
But on the very day the report was tabled, Thursday, the Syndicat des professionnelles en soins de santé de l'Ouest-de-l'Île-de-Montréal (SPSSSODIM), affiliated to the Fédération interprofessionnelle de la santé du Québec (FIQ), learned that the employer wanted to force school nurses to cover evening and weekend shifts at Lakeshore emergency.
"I'm shocked," said local union president Johanne Riendeau.
"In the report, (Francine Dupuis) talks about emphasizing the expertise and experience we need to provide safe care," continued Riendeau. "Now we're going to ask nurses who do completely different work in schools to come and work with unstable patients."
Worse still, the union fears that these nurses will not be properly trained to work in the emergency department.
According to Riendeau, the employer plans to offer these new arrivals "four days of orientation," whereas the training required for a new recruit hired in the emergency department is normally six weeks.
For the CIUSSS, deputy CEO Najia Hachimi-Idrissi said that school nurses are usually redeployed to the network at the end of classes. She added that these professionals are normally assigned to tasks for which they are already trained.
According to Hachimi-Idrissi, the first step is to volunteer across the network to meet needs.
"We're not yet at the stage where we're forcing people," she said. Regarding the reduction in training from six weeks to four days, the PDGA was unable to confirm this information for the time being.
"We were told that they were waiting to find out the profile of the nurses who will be working in the emergency department before deciding on the training that will be given," she said.
Nurses at the Lakeshore emergency unit regularly complain to management about their working conditions, but they feel that they are not being listened to.
Last weekend, the nurses were forced to stage a sit-in to protect themselves ethically, claiming that none of them had been trained to manage the code room.
Denunciations are also filed on a recurring basis using the "Safe Care Form" created by the FIQ. Nurses can thus report situations deemed to be dangerous. In one recent report, the emergency department was at 175% occupancy, with only 50 per cent of its staff, i.e. six nurses on duty instead of 12.
In light of these findings, the nurses' union is concerned that the CIUSSS is not taking its response seriously.
"We fear that the 135 recommendations in the Dupuis report will suffer the same fate as those in the many other reports tabled over the years," the union said.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published in French on June 2, 2023.