Public meeting on loss of local health services

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Deborah Powell

BRISTOL – Over 150 people concerned about local health-care services attended a meeting with Jean Hébert, CEO of the Outaouais Integrated Health and Social Services Centre (CISSSO), organized by Pontiac Voice and the MRC Pontiac, at the Jack Graham Centre in Bristol, March 20.

Deborah Powell

BRISTOL – Over 150 people concerned about local health-care services attended a meeting with Jean Hébert, CEO of the Outaouais Integrated Health and Social Services Centre (CISSSO), organized by Pontiac Voice and the MRC Pontiac, at the Jack Graham Centre in Bristol, March 20.
Hébert gave a brief recap of the controversial centralization of Outaouais health services that came into effect April 1, 2015, with a $20 million budget cut. He said the cutbacks were mostly absorbed through reductions at the administrative level and he expects the CISSSO to break even this year.  The Gatineau administration had been unable to balance it books without bringing rural services under its umbrella.
While reducing rural staff and services, Hébert insisted the CISSSO plan will maintain, and even expand, services in the region, including Pontiac’s Dialysis Unit project, now being evaluated by the province.  One of CISSSO’s objectives is to maximize the use of regional facilities; for example, efforts will be made to have the Pontiac Community Hospital surgical block running at full capacity. 
Questions and comments from the audience covered many issues. Paid parking at the PCH was one, and the possibility of a boycott was mentioned. Hébert underlined that this was a provincial decision, but that discussions of alternatives for visitor parking are taking place locally, and that he is open to a compromise. However, he insisted, parking fees for staff is not negotiable. “That’s not a good way to motivate staff,” commented Josey Bouchard, spokesperson for Pontiac Voice.
Many examples of delays caused by the centralization were given. Requests for virtually everything have to go through Gatineau, often taking up to three days for emergency requests, and technical support is no longer available locally.
Dr. Ruth Vander Stelt spoke about patient care when something as simple as a requisition for a dressing change has to be relayed to the city for approval before local caregivers can carry out the procedure. Hébert replied that re-studying reduced “local management” is a CISSSO objective for 2017.
Responding specifically to rumors that blood services will no longer be available at the hospital, Hébert assured the audience that blood samples will continue to be taken and emergency analysis done locally. However, he admitted that plans may soon have routine blood work samples sent to Gatineau.