Council lobbies for new hospital in downtown Gatineau, not Aylmer as promised
Gatineau council dropped Aylmer as the area of Outaouais’ next hospital. During both the Quebec election and the Gatineau city election campaigns, Aylmer voters were led to believe a new hospital would be built in the west-end of Gatineau (Aylmer). Quebec plans to build a new university-affiliated hospital centre (CHAU) to increase health care services in the Outaouais. Discussions of the location of the hospital have been ongoing. At the January 18 council meeting, Steven Moran, Hull-Wright district Councillor and new Action Gatineau leader, proposed that Gatineau council be consulted on the site options for the new hospital and that the downtown sites would be seriously considered.
The site for the future CHAU must align with the development plan of the City of Gatineau, which favours locations near the city centre or La Cité and Les Allumettières. “The priority always remains the improvement and accessibility of health care services in the Outaouais,” said Gatineau Mayor France Bélisle. “The arrival of a new hospital centre is an opportunity to be seized. The City wants to position itself as a partner in the file. It seems to me judicious that the sites in the city centre be analysed seriously. If there are concerns, we ask that the City be given the opportunity to intervene in the search for possible solutions. I reiterate the importance of having a firm commitment from the Government of Quebec so that Gatineau residents do not pay alone for collateral infrastructure.”
The location must meet the needs of the population, be accessible by public transport and be developed to meet the future needs of the Outaouais. Due to the importance of a central location, the Municipal Council is asking the Government of Quebec that they be given the chance to fix inconveniences or issues of potential sites before the final decision is made. “Current trends in the development of large-scale hospital complexes are clear,” said Dr. Guy Morissette, a doctor for 42 years, and previous directeur des services professionnels au CISSSO. “Whether in Quebec, Canada or North America, they are found most of the time in the most urbanized areas, in the heart of downtown areas. Related services are mostly present and varied. The design is usually taller and less spread. Travel within buildings is facilitated and efficient, avoiding long trips between different areas of the building.” According to the City of Gatineau, the hospital is essential to fill the gap in the health care system that has been an issue for many years. Additionally, the hospital is needed to limit the dependence on Ontario for certain health services and to reduce financial losses, which are estimated to be $110 million every year, according to Régie de l'assurance maladie du Québec.
“The proximity and capacity of links to Ottawa hospitals should not be underestimated. The Outaouais region will always rely on certain highly specialised services from these hospitals: the health networks of the two are complementary with great complicity and exchanges for rare and highly specialized services,” says Morissette.
“I think the council's position on the site of the future hospital reflects the consensus that is forming in the community that there are crucial steps missing from the process we are in,” said Steven Moran, Councillor for the Hull-Wright district. “It is essential that central sites be given priority, and that account be taken of urban sprawl, public transit, population growth and possible economic development. We know that the government wants to listen to local communities and that it wants to lead by example with the deployment of its infrastructures, but it is as if there was a break between the will of the government and the process that we see in the field. Fortunately, there is still time to adjust. The city council and the community are ready to work with the government to come to a solution.”
Before the municipal council meeting on January 18, the Coalition pour un Centre Hospitalier Accessible et Durable en Outaouais (CCHADO) sent to municipal, provincial and federal elected officials a document emphasizing that a hospital in the city centre is the best option in order to meet the needs of the population. Since then, many other stakeholders have given support to the plan to find the best possible location for the hospital.