02/20/2014 09:04 EST | Updated 04/22/2014 05:59 EDT

Quebec nurses propose 24-hour clinics without doctors

Quebec's federation of nurses' unions is proposing 24-hour clinics without doctors to help alleviate the strain on hospitals.

Federation spokesman and executive committee member Roberto Bomba says the Quebec health care system is broken, and having clinics exclusively staffed by nurses and other health care professionals 24 hours a day would help enormously.

"People who are waiting 14 hours, 16 hours in the emergency for minor illnesses should not be at the emergency," Bomba said.

He added local community service centres, or CLSCs, were supposed to take pressure off of emergency rooms when the model was introduced in the early 1970s.

The staff at Quebec’s CLSCs usually perform tasks like blood tests and vaccines.

However, not all are open past 8 p.m. ET or on Saturday and Sunday, which often leaves people to either fend for themselves at a walk-in clinic or go to the ER for minor injuries and illnesses that could be easily treated by nurses much faster.

'CLSC model has failed'

Bomba said the CLSC model has failed, which led the federation to propose the idea of small not-for-profit clinics available to the community around the clock. 

He said the plan would be gradually implemented, first to strategic areas of Quebec, then to the province as a whole.

"All we're doing is just transferring the financial resources and, eventually, also the health care professionals from one institution to a new type of setting,” Bomba said.

However, Quebec Health Minister Réjean Hébert is lukewarm on the idea.

"I think the best care for the patient is to have a team with physicians, with nurses, with other health professionals and that's the orientation we have," Hébert said.

The clinics, which the federation calls neighbourhood clinics, are just one part of a multi-step vision the nurses have for reforming Quebec’s stressed-out health care system.

They also advocate for the creation of centres for senior citizens, although it is not clear from their campaign whether they are meant to replace Quebec’s long-term care centres (CHSLDs) or merely complement them.

“They always told me not to uproot a mature tree. For me, this means we also shouldn’t make a senior citizen move around to access the services he or she needs. It’s up to the system to adapt,” read a written statement from Régine Laurent, president of the federation of nurses' union, regarding the senior citizen centres.

Bomba said a recent nursing shortage has been resolved and adds soon-to-retire nurses could be swayed to provide a few more years of service, but only if they are taken out of hospital environments and given a more relaxing and autonomous setting to work in.