Emergencies: camouflage of patients, according to stakeholders

Patients stationed in meeting rooms. Rooms designed to accommodate two patients who actually host three. Leave of absence for sick people … In order to respond to the request of Health Minister Gaétan Barrette to settle emergency waiting in one week, hospitals adopt different approaches that are similar to Camouflage of patients, support various stakeholders in the health network.

” It’s a mess. It is total panic. It is that making good looks is more important than the well-being of patients, “says Janel Etchie, local president of the APTS union at the Center for Integrated Health and Social Services (CISSS) in Montérégie-Center.

Last week, Minister Barrette summoned the CEOs of the network to eliminate emergency waiting in a week. Shocked that the extra $ 100 million invested by the government before Christmas to improve the situation did not bear fruit, the minister said that “other measures” would be taken if the problem was not resolved.

A week later, several emergencies presented more stellar statistics. Yesterday, the ridership rate in the emergency room was 108% at the Pierre-Le Gardeur hospital, which had flirted with 200% rates on various occasions this winter. At the Haut-Richelieu hospital, the occupancy rate was 89%.

But for several stakeholders of the network, these data do not show any real improvement and the changes adopted to achieve this are “cosmetics”.

“These measures will improve statistics, but not the quality of patient care.”
Paul Brunet
President of the Council for the Protection of the Sick

At the Lanaudière Regional Hospital Center, for example, an overflow unit was added to the existing overflow unit, says a physician who contacted La Presse , but who prefers to remain anonymous . A dozen patients are strung on their stretchers. “The space between the stretchers is so small that one has to turn to the side to pass,” says Stéphane Gagnon, president of the Northern Health Care Workers Union of Lanaudière. Hand-waved metal bells are also provided to patients to be able to call nurses.

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At the CISSS de Lanaudière, it was stated that the measures taken did not follow up on the Minister’s requests and had been in force for a long time. It is assumed that overflow units are functional and safe for patients. “The space between each stretcher corresponds to the current design standards, and the space is greater than the emergency room space,” wrote the CISSS, adding that the bells are “audible without problem” by the nurses.


Other hospitals have also opened overflow units over the past few days. Patients waiting on the stretcher to get a seat on the floors are not included in the emergency statistics. “But waiting on a stretcher in an overflow unit or in emergency rooms is the same,” Brunet denounces.

Among the other methods adopted, some establishments move more quickly to patients on the floors. They wait there on stretchers to be hospitalized. In other hospitals, rooms for two patients have been converted into a room for three. “There is a lot of pressure to get patients out of the emergency room as quickly as possible. There are many concerns of professionals who do not want to refer home too vulnerable patients. Especially since we know that these patients will not have home care quickly, “says M me Etchie, who said he met all day yesterday with worried calls unionized. According to her, the risk of patients being discharged too quickly is readily re-admitted to emergencies.


President of the Quebec Federation of Health Professionals (FIQ), Régine Laurent believes that the current situation where patients are “hidden” to improve the performance of emergencies “was predictable”. “CEOs were asked to settle in a week what has been going on for 15 years …”, she said.

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M me Lawrence is concerned because several overflow units “are inadequate for patient safety.” According to her, as long as the government does not invest more in home care and accommodation, the emergency will continue. “The Minister of Health has a responsibility to take care of the health of the population. There he simply said, “Hide what I can not see,” she said.

“The government has cut 5000 beds for 10 years in a shelter. It is not by opening overflow units that we will solve the problem of emergencies, “says Paul Brunet.

In Mr. Barrette’s office, it is said that the minister “has no indications” that the hospitals in the province are adopting cosmetic measures to address the emergency problem. “The goal is for patients to be referred to appropriate resources. That is what we asked institutions to do, given the 100 million investment we announced before Christmas. We want to ensure that it has the desired effects. The directive has been clear in this regard, “said Minister’s press officer Julie White, adding that the overflow units have long existed in the network in order to cope with certain periods of unusually high ridership.