MNA André Fortin reviews the year and looks ahead

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Allyson Beauregard

PONTIAC – Liberal party member André Fortin just finished his third year

Allyson Beauregard

PONTIAC – Liberal party member André Fortin just finished his third year
representing the Pontiac in Quebec City since his election in April 2014. “It was a successful year where a lot of smaller projects were done [Terry Fox bridge repaired, traffic lights installed in Mansfield, investments in a Mansfield sawmill and a hops pelletizer, etc]. In 2017, larger projects will be realized,” said the MNA.
Fortin highlighted the expansion of Notre Dame de la Joie school in Luskville as one of 2016’s main accomplishments; the school was extended to create six additional classrooms. “The last construction or expansion of a Pontiac school took place 35 years ago,” he told the Journal.
Pontiac health services took more hits
Late last year, two decisions affecting the Pontiac’s health services were announced: the imposition of paid parking at the Pontiac Community Hospital (PCH) this coming March, and the “transformation” of Shawille’s Pavillon du Parc. Both decisions as well as many other decisions made by the CISSSO have left residents angered and concerned about the future of the Pontiac’s health services (see page 2).
“The health system re-management was a big shift,” said Fortin. “Change isn’t easy. The efforts made at the start of the mandate in order to get public finances in order are now bearing fruit in that we are now able to identify the areas where we want
to make targeted investments,” he added, emphasizing the provincial government will be making “very concerted and meaningful” investments in health care, education and economic development in 2017.
Fortin said speculations and concerns that the PCH may become a “glorified CLSC” are not founded. “My main focus is on the development of additional and better services in the area,” he said, claiming the health minister also shares this view, illustrated by recent investments and measures including the provincial govern-ment’s announcement last November to create 1,300 additional long-term care positions across the province, some of which will be in the Pontiac.
“These are completely new jobs,” Fortin said, noting details will be announced in the coming weeks.
Fortin also cited Bill 130, put forward by the liberal party before their fall
session, which aims to make better use of the province’s operating rooms. “The Shawville Hospital has two operating rooms: one used most of the time and the other half the time. Bill 130 would allow the health board to direct specialists to use [available] operating rooms to ensure they are used to their maximum capacity in order to reduce wait times and provide services in rural areas,” he explained.
Pavillon du Parc
In terms of the Pavillon du Parc, Fortin agreed that “communications were not great” regarding the issue, but he emphasized it is best defined as a transformation. “The Citizen’s Protector report stated the level of care in our continued living residences needs to be better adapted to individual needs…our current model might not be the best and most efficient for patients and families,” he told the Journal.
The CISSS is currently conducting interviews with every person residing in a continued living residence across the province, and their family, to determine the most appropriate services for them based on their needs. For example, some residents may benefit from and be directed toward long-term care
services while others may require rehabilitative or intermediary services. According to Fortin, the interviews will lead to the creation of a “complete and thorough plan” and will determine the future of the Pavillon du Parc in Shawville.
“The services offered at the Pavillon will definitely be changing,” he added, noting a decision will not be made in the short-term and residents will remain where they are until a final plan has been made. 
While Fortin said it is his goal to continue offering continued living housing tailored to individual needs in the Pontiac, he could not state with certainty that the Pavillon residence will not close. “I don’t believe [it will close]. That isn’t the aim at this point, but we will have to wait for the report,” he explained, noting the CISSS has committed to favouring the continued use of existing services to provide adaptive living environments.
Looking ahead
In terms of plans for 2017, Fortin said Pontiac residents will witness a reduction in their income taxes due to the complete elimination of the health
tax as of January 1. Healso noted that construction repairs on the Marchand Bridge in Fort-Coulonge /Mansfield will begin this year. According to Fortin, the project will go to tender soon, with a start date by early summer.
He also noted one of his principle priorities in the coming year is service development for local health care, with a focus on the dialysis fund; the
ministry is currently doing a final review of the engineer study completed last fall before moving to the tendering process, which should be within the next few months.
Fortin cited one of 2016’s disappointments was  his inability to meet with more constituents; this is something he hopes to improve in the coming year. “It’s a constant struggle to see as many as I would like. I hope this year I will be able to talk more directly to more people,” he concluded.