The true costs of our rotten healthcare systems
In Aylmer, we rarely distinguish between Ottawa and Gatineau. We treat it as one for shopping and work. How many of us live in Gatineau and work in Ottawa? This has always blurred, the now stark reality, of our provincial borders. The border is now being policed. Healthcare is a provincial responsibility and it has never been clearer than now that we have been abandoned by our province. We have been for years but we managed because we could cross the bridge for care if need be.
Many of my friends and neighbours have never accessed the Quebec healthcare system. Gatineau residents will no longer be able to do this. Our pandemic will be very different. Our healthcare system can not treat all of us on a slow day. Our province purposefully underfunds healthcare in what is the third largest city in Quebec. This region receives 25% less funding for health services than other regions in Quebec because frankly Ottawa was filling the gap. Citizens in Gatineau have done everything to highlight this scenario. Screaming at the province to address this issue. Band-aid solutions followed.
Now we are in crisis. Ottawa needs to focus on their people, and are facing a daunting task in a major city. This pandemic will ripped the band-aid off and expose the rotten healthcare system we have in Gatineau. It may come at a horrible cost, as seen when systems are overloaded in other countries.
All we know, as citizens, is the Government is purposeful in not releasing information specific to this region. And this region has deeply specific challenges in healthcare. The plan, we heard, is to ship everyone with COVID-19 to Montreal to specific COVID-19 hospitals as phase one. This is already not workable. Yesterday, a further 20 beds COVID-19 beds were announced for the Hull Hospital. We are a city of close to 300 000. We are now forced to treat people here. We will be left with what we have. And no one is telling us what is left. Ottawa is reporting all sorts of data. We don’t even know if we have nurses and doctors, let alone masks and respiratory machines. The silence on our side is predictable. We are used to the province ignoring this region. Sos07.org reports that we are short more than $250,000,000 annually in healthcare funding. This cumulative effect of this over years makes us weak and unprepared.
We closed the obstetrics unit for 6 months. We are not even organized enough to provide birthing services across the region. Many like me, chose to give birth across the river. Our best doctors and nurses often flee to better work environments. We lack specialists. We lack people trained in respiratory care. We do not know if we have enough nurses or doctors. All we know is we have never had enough nurses or doctors; and most of us have been without family doctors for years at a time.
We know 11 staff from the Hull Hospital are in isolation due to COVID-19 and the Gatineau Hospital is their back up. Both hospitals are rated the worst in Quebec. Both are understaffed. And the staff is overwhelmed and stretched on a good day. They have begged for years for more support. Our provincial government never listened.
Ottawa has been so accommodating for years. We are not even in a position to thank them by being prepared here to take care of ourselves or return the favour and being in a position to offer support to them. Hard, harsh lessons will be learned, and perhaps things will get better because of it. For myself, I feel forgotten by a distant government in a city far away. I predict “Je me souviens” will now take on a new meaning in Gatineau/Quebec as this pandemic rolls out.