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Reduced weekend service at Pontiac Hospital due to respiratory therapist shortage

ER open in Shawville but serious trauma cases being sent to Hull or Pembroke

Charles dickson
shawville July 28, 2023
As of last Friday, there are no respiratory therapists on duty on weekends at the Pontiac Hospital in Shawville.
While the ER in Shawville remains open seven days a week, in emergency situations between late Friday afternoon and early Monday morning involving trauma levels requiring intubation, patients will be transported directly to a hospital in either Hull or Pembroke, rather than Shawville.
The decision was announced in a press release issued on Thursday by the Integrated health and social services center of the Outaouais, known by its French acronym CISSSO (Le Centre intégré de santé et de services sociaux de l’Outaouais).
The announcement (translated from the original French) said that “due to the shortage of respiratory therapists, [there will be] a reorganization of activities in the operating room and intensive care unit at the Pontiac Hospital in Shawville, starting Friday, July 28 at 3:30 p.m. until Monday, July 31 at 7:30 a.m., and for all subsequent weekends indefinitely. During these periods, we are obliged to suspend activities requiring the support of a respiratory therapist.”
It said that while the emergency department and all other Pontiac Hospital services will remain in operation, the Hull and Pembroke hospitals would receive trauma victims, when necessary, as of 3:30 p.m. on Fridays.
On weekdays, the operating room and intensive care unit at the Pontiac Hospital will resume their usual activities with respiratory therapy coverage, 24 hours a day.
“It is therefore vital that the region’s population continues to come to the hospital for timely and appropriate care,” said the CISSSO press release.
News of these changes comes following the recent departure of two respiratory therapists from the hospital staff.
According to an employee at the hospital who is in a position to be familiar with the situation but is not authorized to speak to the media, it was in an effort to provide a manageable workload for the two respiratory therapists who remain that the decision was taken to send patients who require services involving intubation and use of a respirator to other hospitals over the weekend.
The source confirms that the emergency room, complete with doctors and nurses, will remain open at the hospital throughout weekends, as usual, but that paramedics responding to emergency situations involving high levels of trauma requiring intubation would transport patients directly either to the Hull or Pembroke hospital.


“We have a chronic shortage of staff in multiple areas, and now in respiratory therapy,” Josey Bouchard told THE EQUITY on Friday.
“The local decision makers are doing what they can, but you can’t tie an employee to a hospital bed, you can’t prevent them from leaving,” she said.
As the spokesperson for Pontiac Voice, a health service advocacy group in the Pontiac, Bouchard is also a member of the Local Services Network, a committee set up by CISSSO to raise concerns regarding health and social services needs in the area.
“It’s frustrating because it has been a long time that we’ve been getting more and more short of staff, and the Outaouais is particularly concerned with that because of the attractiveness of the other side of the river, where there’s better pay, better work conditions,” said Bouchard, enumerating some of the challenges in maintaining staff at the Shawville facility.
“Many are going into retirement. During COVID, older nurses and doctors stayed on to hold the fort, but they’re now leaving in greater numbers.”
“Young people now, if they have work conditions that will take away from their family and leisure time, it’s a less attractive job and they will work somewhere else,” said Bouchard.
“And there are not that many nurses coming out of schools.”
“Fundamentally, we have to rethink how the job is being done. Having weird schedules and stuff like that, it’s hard, it’s a hard job,” she said.
Bouchard said that local management has an aggressive recruitment effort underway, but that housing is an issue.
“Depending on what they’re doing, they have to be within a certain distance of the hospital. For some things, it’s under 30 minutes.”