The Hospital Strike
Editorial, Montreal Gazette, Monday, June 18, 1934
The authorities of Notre Dame Hospital took the only proper course open to them in dismissing the thirty-one internes who went on strike. Right-thinking people will have no hesitation in approving the action taken. The young medicos who attempted to force the hospital into breaking its contract with an interne of another race may have believed in the justice of their demand, though others will not; but whether the demand was warranted or not, the method of enforcing it was unquestionably wrong. Still less excuse is there for the men who have left their posts in other hospitals as a demonstration of sympathy and support. There are certain services which impose special obligations upon those engaged in them, services in which loyalty and dependability are paramount considerations. The soldier must not desert his post, and, if he does the penalties are very severe. The policeman and the fireman have special responsibilities toward the communities which employ them; it is their business to safeguard the lives and properties of citizens, and a strike in either of these two essential services is never justified, never tolerated by public opinion. The obligations which rests upon those engaged in the care and treatment of hospital patients is, if anything, more binding, and in no circumstances is its repudiation excusable. Yet in the case of Notre Dame Hospital almost the entire staff of internes deserted their posts, completely disregarding the welfare of the sufferers dependent upon them. But for the prompt action of the hospital authorities and the quick co-operation of the medical profession, the lives of some patients might easily have been jeopardized; the internes "refused to assist the surgeons in emergency operations". Dismissal of the deserters was eminently right. But the situation has been rendered much more serious by the extension of the strike to other hospitals, materially impairing the ability of these institutions to care for their patients, however desperate the need may be. The example set by the Notre Dame management is the right one and if the other hospitals can follow it without endangering the lives of the sufferers in their care, they should do so. The strike has occurred in an effort to satisfy an unworthy prejudice rather than vindicate a principle, and the situation calls for resolute action by all the hospitals concerned, preferably on the lines pursued at Notre Dame. These institutions are well rid of young men whose conception of their professional duty is so imperfect. It is probable that every one of the internes concerned in this unfortunate incident will live to regret his ill-conceived action. These young men are upon the threshold of their careers in a very honorable profession, and they have begun badly.
© 1999 Claude Bélanger, Marianopolis College