Montreal residents are protesting Lachine Hospital’s decision to stop accepting ambulances

The decision to direct ambulances away from Lachine Hospital was due to staff shortages, according to the McGill University Health Center.  (Chloë Ranaldi/CBC - photo credit)

The decision to direct ambulances away from Lachine Hospital was due to staff shortages, according to the McGill University Health Center. (Chloë Ranaldi/CBC – photo credit)

As of Tuesday, the emergency room at Montreal’s Lachine Hospital will no longer accept patients arriving by ambulance, but residents are fighting the decision, saying it could put people at risk.

Paramedics must now transport patients to other hospitals in the area.

The Lachine Hospital Emergency Department will continue to operate every day between 8am and 10pm for walk-in patients. It stays closed overnight.

The latest change does not affect people who have appointments in the hospital.

The McGill University Health Center (MUHC) announced that the emergency room would be closed overnight in October 2021. Since then, the services provided have changed—from emergency room hours of operation to the paramedics’ ability to get patients there.

Chloë Ranaldi/CBC

Chloë Ranaldi/CBC

According to Claudine Lamarre, MUHC’s director of professional services, the decision to reroute ambulances to nearby hospitals was necessary because of staffing issues.

“It has been difficult to maintain and increase human resources,” Lamarre told CBC breaking Dawn host Sean Henry on Monday. “All of this was certainly partly triggered by the COVID pandemic, so we really had to rethink our service to answer and care for our patients and streamline access.”

Lamarre said it has been difficult to ensure there are enough nurses, respiratory therapists and doctors on site.

She said the cut in service was part of the “first step in redefining Lachine Hospital” but the news was not going down well with residents.

A group gathered outside the hospital on Tuesday, urging health officials to reverse their decision.

Chloë Ranaldi/CBC

Chloë Ranaldi/CBC

according to dr Paul Saba, former president of the hospital’s medical council, who still practices family medicine there, the hospital still has enough staff to care for patients who arrive by ambulance. He says the change is unnecessary and dangerous.

“Some people call it restructuring, but it’s not a business. Lives are at stake,” Saba said, adding that resources have been diverted away from the hospital.

“It’s basically moving from a community hospital to downtown.”

Speaking to reporters on Tuesday, Lamarre said the MUHC is in contact with the Health Ministry and the Urgences-santé emergency medical service to ensure the hospital’s closure to ambulances does not affect patient care.

“We provide everything necessary to make these transfers quick and safe,” she said.

Last fall, work began on a $223 million project to expand the hospital, with completion scheduled for 2027.

Chloë Ranaldi/CBC

Chloë Ranaldi/CBC

“I find it really sad”

Maja Vodanovic, the mayor of Lachine district, said she was used to seeing services being scaled back at the hospital, but the latest announcement hits harder.

“The news now is that it’s permanent,” she said. “I think it’s a pity that we don’t have enough doctors.”

Vodanovic acknowledged that the condition of Lachine Hospital can make people think twice about seeking treatment there.

She recalled about a year ago that she had to drive a friend to the hospital because of health problems.

Jay Turnbull/CBC

Jay Turnbull/CBC

Although Lachine Hospital was the closest facility, she chose the location of the MUHC in Glen instead.

“It’s a huge hospital and it has all the facilities and it’s modern and you automatically go there,” she said of speaking about the Glen location.

The county mayor said it’s important for stakeholders to work together to find a lasting solution to staffing issues and ensure the hospital can serve the community, especially when it comes to family medicine.


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