Half-million more cut

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MNA Fortin defends about-face over health-care cuts

Allyson Beauregard  & Fred Ryan



MNA Fortin defends about-face over health-care cuts

Allyson Beauregard  & Fred Ryan

Due to the provincial government’s plan to reduce its deficit by ordering cuts to health care and social services across Quebec, the Pontiac health unit (CSSSP) is analyzing its operations to decide where the cuts can be made. No decisions have been made yet, and no one in the CSSSP will reveal which Pontiac services, programs or facilities are under examination.
Pontiac’s new Liberal MNA, André Fortin, who ran in last year’s election promising to improve, not cut, health services, has assured the Pontiac Journal that the cuts will be made without affecting basic patient care. Fortin stressed that all regions face similar cuts by Health Minister Barrette, not just the Pontiac. Aylmer, for example, is losing its day-hospital for seniors entirely. “Every local health care unit has been asked to review their expenses,” Fortin said.
Total cuts:
$1.6 million per year
The CSSSP, which manages the hospital in Shawville, Pontiac’s CLSCs, including the E.R. in Mansfield, plus local long-term care and seniors services, has been ordered to cut another $425,000 from its annual budget. This is not Pontiac’s first time on the chopping block, noted Leanne Gray, Director of Financial & Technical Services of the CSSSP. “We had already received cumulative budget cuts up until 2013-2014 of $1.2 million per year. Therefore, the total impact of budget compressions (cuts) between 2010-2011 and 2014-2015 is over $1.6 million per year,” with the new $425,000 cut added in. She said the CSSSP was officially notified of the cuts, June 27.
Fortin said he expects the effect of the cuts to be less severe in the Pontiac, adding that if the budget cuts “are done well this time” there will be no need for this to occur year after year. He noted that “the CSSSP does a good job of managing their finances already and usually doesn’t run a deficit.”
Despite the cuts, and that health care was claimed to be a priority of the Liberal party during the election, Fortin says improving health care is still a priority and that the cuts will help the party maintain their election promises. He did not elaborate. “We plan to stick to our goals, like the Dialysis Unit.”
“The reality is that public finances are in a critical state and need to be addressed,” said Fortin. “After the tough decisions, we will then have more flexibility to implement programs promised during our election campaign. After we decide which services are necessary and highlight those we do and don’t need, room will be made in public funds so there is extra capacity to implement the promises,” he said, without explaining the details of this process. Fortin added that the promise to set up “super clinics” does not apply to the Pontiac.
Fewer services for seniors
The MNA added that these cuts will help to deal with the demands the aging population will put on the health system in the future.
He did not explain how this would work, but assured Journal readers that better finances will make it easier for future generations to afford this care.
CLSC on the block?
Many Pontiac residents are concerned the axe will fall on emergency room services and possibly the entire CLSC in Mansfield and Chapeau, especially after losing emergency room services at the CLSC Mansfield last year due to a shortage of doctors. Fortin could not assure readers that such closures will not happen again, nor that more doctors will be trained.
According to Gray, the CSSSP is studying its options, and no decisions have been made. “This (is) a primary topic for the board, management, and staff. All efforts have been made to cut in areas that do not affect services to the population.” She could not say if this meant cutting management positions rather than public services. “Until 2013-2014, we were able to maintain services, and hold to only a slight deficit in spite of $1.2 million in annual cuts. However, with the additional $400,000 for 2014-15, this will be a difficult year.”
“This is a challenging time for health services in Quebec,” Dr. John Wootton told the Journal. “(Despite) significant budget cuts over several years, we had the smallest deficit of all the institutions in the Outaouais in the last fiscal year, and have managed to maintain services.”
Once hospital managers have made their suggestions for cuts, the Ministry of Health must approve their proposals. The CSSSP is expected to have a new budget by this fall.
 Privatization of
services coming?
Fortin made a final remark: “We have asked for a permanent commission of revision to identify appropriate measures and areas where the government shouldn’t be involved.”

NOTE: The Journal’s website question of the month is about the proposed health cuts.  Readers can go to www.journalpontiac.com and let us know which     services, if they are cut, would affect them and their families the most.