Better healthcare already has roots in the Pontiac

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Healthcare in the Pontiac, with its large area and sparse population, is problematic. Specialists are far away; access to doctors is limited. Quebec’s healthcare is in crisis because of ballooning costs and the scarcity of practitioners.

There’s a transition happening with the CAQ’s so-called “reform”, Santé Québec. Will this reform continue centralization so that bureaucrats in the big city decide how services are delivered out in the local healthcare centres? Or will it accede to allow more local decision making about healthcare delivery? Will it encourage innovative ideas like telemedicine?

Primary care providers are overwhelmed by local demand with wait times for appointments, emergency rooms, specialists and surgeries an on-going problem. Privatizing healthcare, making people pay for appointments, tests, diagnostics and treatments would be disastrous for the Pontiac and is not a solution. Privatization is no reform; it is the destruction of an efficient public system.

In addition, the health status of people is rarely considered out loud. Smoking, obesity and alcoholism are major contributions to poor health, and are prevalent across the Outaouais. More preventative messaging has to be used so people live healthier, are less of a strain on the health facilities, and enjoy life longer. Effective messages about eating better and exercising more are essential. People with chronic illnesses and acute care issues, as well as those suffering harmful lifestyle conditions, currently all present themselves in emergency rooms and clog the system.

The Pontiac has a potential solution – the region’s CLSCs. Making them more effective means funding them better to help these clinics develop into broader primary care centres – into polyclinics of good health – where people also learn to take better care of themselves.

Making the CLSC system central to a new model of rural and urban healthcare can be an ideal solution for Quebec’s healthcare in general. The CLSCs bring services closer to the communities where the demand for healthcare begins. CLSCs are much less costly to run than hospitals.

When the Castonguay Report in the ’60’s suggested such a system, it was shelved. Costly hospital-centric plans were developed instead, a large bureaucracy was born, and this has led to the crisis we face today. It is time to re-invent a public healthcare service delivery model that works.