A special zone for Pontiac?

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Dispatches from the 148 by Fred Ryan


Dispatches from the 148 by Fred Ryan

Today we’re all forced to look squarely at our health-care system – and at our own personal health-care practises. The pick-up parades and window signs (plus letters to the editor), all praising the bravery and commitment of Pontiac’s health-care professionals, have been inspiring. Yet there still are a lot of complaints circulating; too many people feel they have not been well treated by our health-care system (although these complaints rarely are directed at the front line’s efforts).
Even in these exceptional history-making times, we seem unable to
drop our old habits of complaining – basically – that anything in Quebec is not as good as what’s in Ontario. It’s a tiresome complaint, but one so many anglophones do not feel tired of uttering, ad nauseam. In the last month, I myself have had a COVID test (at the Pontiac Community Hospital) plus an invasive procedure in the OR there – allowing me to note that the service, promptness, care and precautions were excellent. The staff were remarkable, given the conditions and given the threat to themselves from COVID. I’m so relieved I did not have to “go to Ontario”. 
But history and prejudice aside, the main problem most health facilities face, I understand, is a staff shortage, in all categories of help. All Pontiac suffered a community-body blow when the health board, CISSSO, suspended obstetrics in Shawville – due to staff shortages, nurses mainly. 
Our local volunteer group, Pontiac Scholarship Fund / Les bourses du Pontiac, is now launching this year’s drive for post-secondary scholarships given to Pontiac students. Curiously, with today’s spotlight on health services, only three of the
twenty-odd scholarships are dedicated to health-care; besides these specific grants, several other grads may be given bursaries to study in health-care fields. Of 23 total Pontiac scholarships this year, three are specific and there may
be another three given  for healthcare – that makes roughly six for health-care, out of 23. Given what we are experiencing with COVID, isn’t this low
number strange?
We’ve mastered complaining, but where are our local real contributions to solving these problems? Are local families – parents – encouraging their kids to study in health-care fields? How about more local donations to create more and larger bursaries? Local businesses, organizations and professionals do
much of the contributing, as well as individuals. Surely we anglophones realize complaining isn’t positive, that solutions come from actions and personal involvement? 
This is not to ignore Quebec’s abysmal pay scales within health-care. It’s hard to imagine why local nurses would stay in Shawville, Wakefield or Gatineau when across the river they are paid as much as $10,000 – $20,000 more per year than in Quebec.
Several leaders have proposed a “special zone” for Pontiac and West Quebec where health-care and education employees have their pay supplemented to match nearby Ontario rates. We already have a zone sharing fuel tax revenues – with other equalising features – why not expand this to salary
top-ups? This is not necessarily a Duchy of Pontiac proposal! We’re topping-
up for COVID damages now; this would increase public services, employment, retail spending, and increase our local population’s share of professionals. The feds could funnel some of this funding into Quebec’s health/education systems – it’s an inter-provincial problem. MP Will Amos, a consideration?
All to say, isn’t it time we look at the big picture rather than complaining about details (and get over our tiresome francophobia). The big picture is education – and today is when we need to pitch in and support our kids setting off on their careers.
All careers, but especially health care. Local kids will bring their training and experiences back home (if we generate opportunities). Our political leaders
have to step beyond government’s bureaucratic absorptions – into the long-term, knowing a strong educational and health foundation will serve all of Pontiac. Business, tourism, logging and farming, senior-support and job-creation will all follow.
And this all comes back to us, to individual involvement. Complain, but at the ballot box. Join up, donate … be positive. Be Pontiac-Proactive.