• Stuart Benson

Nursing shortage poses big problems

Due to an “extreme shortage” of nurses in the region, La Maison des Collines in Wakefield announced in a June 20 press release it would temporarily suspend admissions.


“We’re missing nearly half of our usual nursing staff,” explained Julie Filion, executive director of the six-bed palliative care home located behind the Wakefield Hospital.

The Maison des Collines in Wakefield temporarily suspended new admissions because of low staffing. Stuart Benson photo

According to Filion, the home lost three staff members in the three weeks leading up to the announcement, which was immediately followed up with a recruitment campaign.


“We need four nurses right now to be able to re-open: three full-time and one part-time position,” Filion explained. “My staff worked and worked throughout the pandemic, and they're exhausted, so after losing three in such quick succession, we just couldn’t continue.”


The need for front-line health professionals is particularly acute for the night shift and on weekends, Filion explained.


“My biggest competitors right now are the private agencies; they pay a whole lot more than CISSSO and we do.” Filion added that the private agencies not only offer higher wages but also allow nurses to decline night and weekend shifts, which are required at the Maison.


Filion said they are revising the centre’s salary base and working on pension and benefits plans which she hopes will be in place by December. “We know that benefits hold a big weight in employees' decisions so we're trying to find a benefits package that all of the care homes can afford.”


Filion also noted that the shortage of nursing staff was not unique to the Maison, nor was it even unique to the Outaouais.


“Most of the palliative care homes across the province are having a hard time hiring nurses and retaining them,” Filion explained. “[However,] we believe that with the support of the communities we serve, our patients, families and partners who help us get the word out, this is our best chance to showcase what La Maison des Collines has to offer and find the future nurses who will join our team and our community. "


The lack of nurses has impacted the emergency department at the Gatineau Hospital, which had to close due to a staffing shortage beginning on June 25. The original announcement said it would reopen on June 28. However, CISSSO health board announced in a later statement the hospital would require an additional 48 hours to reopen securely.


Filion can’t say when the care home will begin accepting new admissions but says that as soon as she can find the nurses to fill the shortage, it will reopen as soon as possible.


“My priority every day is to recruit, recruit, recruit until we can begin admitting patients again.”


La Maison des Collines is a palliative care centre providing support to patients and their families at every stage of the end-of-life process. For more information, visit lamaisondescollines.org, or call 819-459- 1233 ext 2.