Too little, too late, CISSSO

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Added: Wed, 09/09/2020 - 9:51pm
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Allyson Beauregard
Rédacteur / Managing Editor
editor@journalpontiac.com

Recently, representatives of the Centre intégré de santé et de services sociaux de l'Outaouais (CISSSO) trekked to Shawville to give an update on the Pontiac Community Hospital’s (PCH) obstetrics (OBS) unit; news few were likely surprised to hear (see page 2).
CISSSO blamed preoccupations with the pandemic as the cause for the delay in reopening the unit and said it will implement some form of unique “hybrid” model of
pregnancy monitoring by year’s end. 
In the age of COVID-19, minor delays are expected and most of the time understood. But is COVID simply a convenient scapegoat in this case? Had the problem with the PCH’s OBS unit suddenly arose in early spring 2020, only to have action plans hindered by the virus, COVID would be guilty. But, that wasn’t the case.
The PCH’s problems were ongoing for about a year before the virus hit, with
several service interruptions in 2019.
CISSSO and the government implemented what Pontiac MNA André Fortin has called “patchwork solutions” until it came to a head in February 2020 when the unit was closed for what was supposed to be 6 months. This procrastination makes the news a lot harder to swallow, justify and understand.
Luckily, CISSSO is working on allowing midwives to follow expectant mothers
and deliver babies locally at the PCH through a new “hybrid” model. This news is
encouraging and will bridge some of the gaps while the standard OBS unit is ‘rebuilt’. But midwifery isn’t for everyone – both as a personal choice and for medical reasons. Midwives are mandated to transfer higher-risk cases – and a significant portion of Pontiac mothers will still be forced to travel to Gatineau or Ontario to deliver until the regular unit opens.
It’s time for the CAQ government to follow through with its election promise
to equalize Québec’s nurses’ wages to Ontario; idly waiting for this to happen is
foolish.
The MRC Pontiac and CISSSO are in the process of creating incentive packages to entice nurses to work here, and CISSSO is pursuing intensified recruitment campaigns. However, immediate action and solutions are required, especially with a second wave of the virus predicted for the fall when preoccupations could once again be shifted.
Genuinely attractive incentive packages (land tax rebates, lump sum bonus, living allowances, etc.) need to be rolled out quickly, even if it means taking funds from accumulated surpluses – most of our municipalities have hefty ones – to balance this year’s budgets. If not, there’s nothing stopping the five nurses currently training at the PCH from hopping across the border to greener pastures once they officially graduate, just like all those who have done so in the past and all those we will lose in the future unless a solution is implemented.
Without concrete, immediate action, the Pontiac will be facing the same
disappointment again at year’s end. As we know from experience, counting on
promises won’t rebuild the PCH’s OBS unit.