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Montreal nurses want investigation to highlight systemic Quebec health-care issues

The nurses union at the Lakeshore General Hospital hopes that the investigation into recent emergency room deaths will highlight bigger issues in the health-care network and not focus on blaming staff.

Quebec’s Ministry of Health launched an investigation into the deaths and appointed former Montreal center-west health and social services (CIUSSS) head Francine Dupuis to lead the investigation.

Lakeshore is in the West Island’s CIUSSS territory, but the union fears Dupuis’ close working relationship with its CEO Dan Eric Gabay may be a conflict.

“We were a little surprised to see that she’s worked very closely in the past with our new CEO,” said union (FIQ) vice-president Kristina Hoare. “It’s something that we question a lot.”

Gabay is seen speaking on a retirement video for Dupuis on Facebook in September, calling her a “titan.”

“They could have picked anybody else to do this dossier,” said Hoare. “The person they chose and the fact that she worked quite closely with our CEO brings forth a couple of questions as to how she’s going to take her decisions and how it’s going to influence the decisions she’s going to put in the report.”

Dupuis sent a letter to staff last week introducing himself and saying that she has been tasked with looking at “some of the main components related to the functioning of the emergency (quality insurance mechanisms, action plans, recovery measures communication mechanisms, alignment and safety offer of services).”

“Let us try to focus on where you stand now, the improvements that were already put in place, and the additional efforts that need to be made to project you towards excellence,” he wrote.

The union’s main concern is that the blame for the ER deaths does not fall on its overworked members but rather highlights bigger issues its members would like to see improved.

“It doesn’t seem to be a systemic problem from what she wrote; it seems to be an internal issue,” said Hoare. “We’ve been talking about this since before 2019. These are not new issues for us at the Lakeshore. They’re things that we’ve been fighting for.”

On Tuesday, Lakeshore’s ER was at 203 per cent capacity. Hoare said that after speaking to CTV he would spend much of her day trying to help staff navigate the situation, which she said exemplifies how hard it is for nurses and other staff at the hospital.

It is a situation, he said, felt in many hospitals in Quebec as they deal with staff shortages and overtaxed ERs.

She hopes the investigation will highlight these issues.

“They’re hoping that things will finally be taken seriously, but, at the same time, they take things with a grain of salt,” said Hoare. “We’ve been trying for years to get people to listen to us and to put actual solutions into place at the Lakeshore General and nothing seems to be working.”

CTV News Montreal’s attempts to contact the Ministry of Health and Dupuis have so far been unsuccessful.