Quebec Premier François Legault is asking government employees to volunteer to work in hospitals, as staffing shortages continue to hamper the province’s health-care system.
Bureaucrats are being asked to opt-in to work in a hospital setting as service aides, taking over non-medical tasks normally performed by nurses. That could include disinfecting surfaces and equipment, doing administrative tasks, and providing meals to patients.
“There is a storm to weather and the government is launching a call for solidarity,” wrote Éric Ducharme, the secretary of Quebec’s Treasury Board, in an email obtained by Radio-Canada.
The letter, which was sent to all provincial employees, said the health ministry needs to “rapidly respond to significant labour shortages across its territory,” and is asking for volunteers.
“In this period of significant increase in hospitalizations due to the pandemic, our colleagues are therefore calling on us to go, for a few weeks, to lend a hand,” it read.
The office of Sonia LeBel, the president of Quebec’s Treasury Board, confirmed they are hoping 2,165 people will sign up.
Speaking on Radio-Canada’s Tout le monde en parle program Sunday night, Legault said a plan exists to train people for those administrative roles, but is asking government employees to work until they are filled.
“So the nurses can focus on the patients,” he explained.
Those who sign up will still be allowed to return to their jobs. They will be paid their usual salary, and may also be eligible to premium pay incentives, meant to encourage workers to stay in the public health-care network.
Volunteers are being asked to signal their interest to their managers by the end of the day Monday.
The union that represents public and para-public service workers in the province, known by its French acronym, the SFPQ, is calling on the government to focus the effort on seasonal employees, such as those who work in the province’s national parks, who are currently without work.