Quebec's Urgent Cares Are Struggling Mid-Pandemic As Support Staff Go On Strike

As of September 12, the percentage of beds filled in urgent care was 120.3%.

Staff Writer
An urgent care sign at a hospital in Montreal.

An urgent care sign at a hospital in Montreal.

The COVID-19 pandemic continues to affect all sectors of life in Quebec, and few areas are hit as hard as hospitals themselves — urgent care perhaps worst of all. Now, emergency services support workers in Montreal have announced a set strike from September 20 to 27.

Urgent care services — the sector whose workers are striking — are still overcrowded and understaffed. As of last Monday, September 12, the percentage of beds filled in urgent care was 120.3%. For reference, the target is 85% or less.

As of Monday, September 19, over 3,000 healthcare workers were absent due to COVID-19, whether positive and recovering or preventively self-isolating. There are a total of more than 333,000 workers in the health and social services sector as of August 13 of this year.

In other words, almost 1% of the health and social care network is actively not working due to the pandemic. Excluding social services, the ratio increases. This past summer, six ERs were forced to partially close due to continued staff shortages.

Since December 2020, urgent cares across Quebec have stayed well above their target occupancy rates except for a brief period in January 2021. Besides that limited period of acceptable occupancy, Quebec’s urgent cares have been overcrowded — and it has not gotten better.

The duration of average stays in urgent care has also swelled due to the strain imposed by the pandemic. Since the end of 2020, Quebec’s urgent cares have never reached their target of 14-hour stays (or less). Instead, the average stay has increased to 18 hours.

For the duration of their strike, urgent care support staff will complete the minimum legal requirements for safety in their respective roles. The Tribunal administratif du travail has confirmed that their plans won’t put any lives in danger. The same can’t be said for the ongoing pandemic.

This article's cover image was used for illustrative purposes only.

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