Pontiac’s health care is at the foundation of our economy

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Added: Wed, 11/02/2016 - 8:31pm
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Allyson Beauregard

In the last couple of editions, the efficiency of Quebec’s health system,
particularly for rural residents, was called into question (see “Pontiac Perspectives” page 30 of the September 21 edition and “Is the Quebec hospital system sick?”
page 5 of the October 19 edition). Unfortunately, the stories of both Mr. Gauthier and Ms Shutt are not unique, and illustrates the very difficult reality many Pontiac residents face in order to access medical care.
It’s no secret the Pontiac is one of the poorest MRCs in all of Quebec and
much effort has been made to attract people and investors to settle here,
encourage those already residing here to stay, and persuade students to return after they have completed their studies; all with the objective of boosting our economy. The Pontiac’s diminishing population was also discussed at a recent Council of Mayors meeting (see page 8) where Council decided to investigate how to promote immigration to the Pontiac region.
The Pontiac’s lack of employment opportunities are a large contributor to the problem, but here’s another stark reality: people won’t move here, those already residing here are not encouraged to stay, and students are not persuaded to return if their basic needs are not, or cannot, be adequately and efficiently met. In the
modern world, health care is a basic need, just like access to shelter and education. While many services are offered locally, most specialized treatments require travelling to either the Gatineau area or Montreal. Our beautiful countryside, cheap land, and friendly residents are not as attractive as they should be when paired with inefficient, inconveniently-accessible health care.
There’s been talk in the past about the benefits of promoting retirement or seniors communities in the Pontiac. Sure, the move could be a huge economic driver; however, seniors are frequent users of health services as are young families, another cohort the Pontiac is desperate to attract. How can we expect seniors, who often have to rely on friends, family or hired help for transportation, to travel long distances to health centres often plagued with scheduling errors, delays, and inefficiency? The situation is no different for families with young children.
In addition, when people travel to different areas, they will spend their
money there, not at home: parking, lunches, gas, hotel stays if needed, etc.
Pontiac residents have certainly been doing their part to improve the situation
by rallying together to raise funds for much needed equipment such as the Dialysis project and the Bone Densitometer acquired at the Mansfield CLSC within the past couple years, among numerous other initiatives. 
But we can’t do it alone. If the government is sincerely concerned with the
well-being and survival of rural areas, more attention needs to be given to the availability and efficiency of health services, because ultimately, it’s an integral part of the foundation upon which our economy rests.