Written by By Henry Hanks, CNN
A crisis is brewing in Montreal, according to some ER doctors who are bitter over the hospital’s decision to close an emergency room overnight.
According to the doctors, the late-night closure for budgetary reasons threatens their livelihoods.
The Canadian city of Montreal is home to both the McGill University Health Centre (MUHC) and The Hospital de l’Universite de Montreal (CHUM).
The two organizations operate under the MUHC/CHUM umbrella. The strategy means they are under-resourced to deal with acute cases, MUHC MUHC spokesman Daniel Lacoursiere told CNN.
“There is no universal funding solution. So we have to make trade-offs,” he said.
The plan entails closing the hospital’s emergency room after 9 p.m. and is expected to be completed by August 2019. The hospital stopped admitting patients at 5 p.m. Friday and it says it has no patients coming in the night.
The hospital website describes the E.R. as being closed from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m. but some ER doctors fear people might just turn up to wait, with long waits at the other end.
“I’ve been here nearly 30 years and I’ve seen a lot,” said doctor Daniel Herbert, referring to the ER before it was closed. “I’ve seen a lot of very sick people.”
‘I called in sick’
He describes a chaotic situation, where nurses are in charge of dealing with emergencies.
“I called in sick,” he said. “When people come in, I don’t know who to see. I don’t know who to look after.”
Herbert says he’s “angry” over the closing and believes the hospital’s leadership has “a responsibility” to provide an alternative.
“If I have kids — and these are children, 6 to 12 years old — I don’t think that I should have to wait in a vehicle overnight for a four-hour outpatient visit at 8 in the morning,” he said.
“They (hospital administrators) should be able to find other solutions. We’ve done this for 30 years. We’re 52 years old and we’ve seen money come and go. We need to look at our long-term budget.”
He said they could continue to open up a few hours for people, or possibly, use a mobile clinic.
“We need emergency services; this is a public service,” he said. “That’s the first thing. They need to find other solutions.”
Lacoursiere disputed the notion that the ER had not been keeping up with the rest of the hospital.
“We see patients when the emergency room is functioning,” he said. “If the emergency room isn’t functioning, we also see patients.”
Lacoursiere said the emergency room has not been able to provide all the services that patients should expect.
“We are highly under-resourced compared to other urban centres in Canada,” he said. “It’s a challenge.”
“I hope that we can work with the other agencies”
Bridget Pascale, a U of M professor of emergency medicine who has worked at McGill, said that the decision is “upsetting.”
“It’s worrying that the MUHC isn’t financially and medically able to keep an ER open” she said. “There is no reasonable good reason for closing the ER overnight.”
A source within MUHC also told CNN that about 200 of 250 doctors at the ER were in favor of the move.
The hospital has so far offered no solutions to the ER doctors who were impacted by the move.
But Lacoursiere said the hospital will continue to work with the doctors.
“We are working and hoping that we can work with the other agencies to try to find other solutions,” he said.
Meanwhile, an MUHC/CHUM spokesperson did not respond to CNN’s request for comment.