March 9, 2022

Burned-out nurses in Quebec have vacations cancelled amid pandemic’s fifth wave

Overworked nurses in Quebec looking for a break from COVID-19 are being told to cancel their vacations in the latest move to keep the health-care network afloat during the fifth wave of the pandemic.

Like so many health-care workers, ER nurse Joanne Scullion said she’s burned out.

“This is my eighth shift in a row. I need a day off. I can’t work tomorrow, physically or mentally, I’ll make a mistake,” she told CTV News on Tuesday.

And now, under the strain of nearly two years of the pandemic, that burden could soon get worse because of a government decree adopted in the first wave of the pandemic that’s still in force.

It allows hospital administrators to cancel vacations of nurses and other health-care workers and while Scullion’s hospital hasn’t done it, others have.

“This thing about our vacation, he’s [Premier François Legault] trying to kill us. He has absolutely no clue what we do,” she said.

Julie Goudreau, a spokesperson at Laval’s Cite de la Santé, said 30 staff members had their vacations cancelled this week, and there could be more.

The head of Quebec’s main federation of nurses said the decree is the most “destructive” piece of legislation for health-care workers.

“For two years, it’s been a war effort for our members,” said Julie Bouchard, president of the Fédération interprofessionnelle de la santé du Québec (FIQ).

“If the government takes away our vacations, a lot more nurses may decide to leave the profession.”

Right now, across the province there are more than 11,000 health-care workers off the job, either sick or in isolation as hospital admissions keep on rising.

At the McGill University Health Centre, about 70 employees are testing positive for COVID-19 every day.

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