---- New hospital ... same old problems?
The province has announced a 600-bed mega-hospital ... "in the Outaouais". This message came with great fanfare, but no details. It will fulfil a CAQ election promise, and can only improve our regional institution's health-care results. We have few specifics, besides an opening date of 2030 -- oh, and that those 600 beds are not all new ones.
Almost half of these "new beds" will be beds which already exist and which will be centralized in the new facility. Closing already-existing services is a good thing? Pause here, please. One new hospital, okay, but how many closures? Wakefield's hospital? Pontiac's? Buckingham's? ... CISSSO, the region's health mega-bureaucracy, refuses to answer any questions from the pubic.
If we look at CISSSO's embarrassing record (CISSSO's two urban hospitals rank among the province's worst), we see that Pontiac's high-ranking rural hospital has lost crucial services (nursing, and now obstetrics -- can you believe it?), regional CLSCs have been starved and subtracted from, local management of local services has been wiped out -- CISSSO's track record is of centralizing services, making specialists less available to rural citizens and subject to a mammoth bureaucracy which seems to run from one mistake to the next. With similar complaints from Pontiac to Wakefield and Buckingham, how can we be enthusiastic about this latest announcement?
Since the new facility will no doubt be built in Gatineau (CISSSO should be re-named CISSS-G), the Outaouais' sizeable rural population will be further away from health services, thus reducing those services. Who gains with this announcement?
It seems CISSSO's last real success was the birthing centre in Gatineau, and that was long ago. Since then Quebec's health ministry has managed to lose nurses (by keeping pay rates lower than Ontario's), drop the ball on seniors' residences, close obstetrics, render Wakefield/Gatineau Hills almost service-less, and preside over the worst COVID-19 record in all of Canada! The minister was finally replaced in June, but the Ministry of Health remains in need of re-organization -- starting with decentralization.
The CAQ originally posed as anti-big government, close to the people. In reality, it's indistinguishable from the last Liberal government (which destroyed Pontiac's health service self-management)! Yes, the time for bandaid solutions is long gone, and the Minister should focus on reorganisation and re-orientation -- especially since he (and his bureaucrats) seem also unable to end racism in their institutions. All these are not actions to be corrected "over the long term" -- the long term was over long ago!
The Outaouais, divided rural/urban, needs an end to centralization and top-down control -- and especially an end to CISSSO's culture of "expert-only" decision making. CISSSO's "experts" have failed us too many times without apology or correction.
In the immediate term, the Outaouais deserves public consultations on the new hospital, its location, and which services should be centralized there. This includes using the expertise of local health professionals in reaching these decisions. CISSSO's culture of unaccountability is an insult to the people it is here to serve, you and I. A genuine "popular" political party would involve its citizens at each step of the way. Closing rural hospitals and services will only erode the good will and support Premier Legault has carefully nurtured since his election. And the Gatineau Hills' MNA Robert Bussière knows all this very well, despite his silence on this critical file.