New CISSSO President & CEO, Dr. Marc Bilodeau. (Photo : CISSSO)

Bonnie James
Local Journalism Initiative

OUTAOUAIS – On January 22, Dr. Marc Bilodeau became president and CEO of the Centre intégré de santé et de services sociaux de l’Outaouais (CISSSO). He comes from a long career in military healthcare, most recently serving as Surgeon General and Head of Health Services for the Canadian Armed Forces since 2020.

The Journal sat down with Dr. Bilodeau on February 22 to talk about the future of healthcare in the Pontiac and the state of healthcare in the province. In a February 19 interview with CHIP FM, when asked about rural services, the obstetrics unit at the Pontiac Community Hospital (PCH), and challenges in rural healthcare, Dr. Bilodeau spoke about centralizing services in the city and making them accessible to rural residents. The Journal asked what that might mean for the future of PCH and what his vision is for PCH.

“Local and centralized services are a moving target because of the availability of human resources and support personnel, which changes over time. There are some services we have no choice but to centralize because they require an expertise that’s very hard to secure in more remote areas. In order to provide safe care, it’s not possible to offer all services remotely. My focus is on access [to services] but also safety; I need to manage them in the context of support to remote communities… We want to maintain proximity services in the Pontiac. The Pontiac Community Hospital will remain. But the content of the service offer may change over time.  We’re constantly reassessing the needs of the population, the services offered, and availability of resources,” said Dr. Bilodeau.

Regarding proximity services, the doctor also mentioned using technology to provide services via video conferencing, where appropriate. He gave the example of dermatological issues, which he said can often be diagnosed using video or photos.

In light of the closing of Aylmer’s busy CLSC, we asked what the future holds for the Mansfield/Fort-Coulonge CLSC. The doctor replied that since he’s newly appointed, he didn’t have information about the specific location, but promised to look into it and follow up. He offered the following about the CLSC network in general:

“CLSCs have evolved over the last several years. Some services formerly provided there are now provided at other points of service. Very few, if any, services have been reduced. They have just changed in nature and format. The mission of the CLSCs is changing, but the point of service itself will remain. We’ll keep trying to adjust service offers based on the needs of the local population.”

Last week, a doctor told the Montreal Gazette that Quebec’s health services are
suffering a “system collapse.” We asked Dr. Bilodeau if he agrees:

“We definitely have huge challenges. The biggest cause is lack of human resources. In some areas, we’re at a very critical point, but collapse is a big word. The reason the system hasn’t collapsed is because of the dedicated people we have in it who are working day in and day out to make this work. The system is vulnerable. It’s fragile, and we can take it for granted. My role is to keep supporting those people [who are making it work] so we don’t lose them and to do the best I can to secure additional resources to better support them and reduce the pressure currently on them. I’m hopeful. I wouldn’t have taken this role if I didn’t think I could make a difference with my team and make it [the system] better for our people and ultimately our users.”