No more 24-hour shifts for Quebec residents

Could the ruling have implications across the country?

Quebec hospitals will have six months to reduce 24-hour medical resident shifts to a maximum of 16 hours, ruled an arbitrator in a grievance case led by the Fédération médecins résidents du Québec against the McGill University Health Centre yesterday. Arbitrator Jean-Pierre Lussier agreed with the argument put forward by former McGill employee Dr. Alain Bestawros that hospitals are violating the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms by failing to protect their employees’ health. Their evidence was that medical residents are 2.3 times more likely to crash their vehicles after working 24-hour shifts. In addition, they argued that patients’ rights are violated by the fact that doctors make more more errors when they’re tired from day-long shifts. “We know it is dangerous for patients and residents,” Dr. Charles Dussault, president of the Fédération médecins résidents du Québec told the Montreal Gazette, who also said he is pleased by the ruling. Because the decision was based a Charter principle, Dr. Bestawros hopes it sets a precedent for other provinces.