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MacLachlan family contributes $100k towards nursing studies

Bursaries up to $20,000 each for high school grads going into a nursing program

by Charles Dickson
Apr. 29, 2024
Students on track to graduate from any of Pontiac’s three high schools could be eligible for a bursary of up to $20,000 to help with the costs of post-secondary studies in nursing, according to a press release issued on Friday by CISSSO, the Centre for Integrated Health and Social Services of the Outaouais.
The bursary program will be administered by the Pontiac Community Hospital Foundation following a donation of $100,000 received from the family of the late William (Bill) and Elsie MacLachlan who, from the mid-1960s, lived in Shawville where they raised their children, Bill Jr., Janice and Carole.
In an email exchange with THE EQUITY, Bill MacLachlan Jr., who now lives in Calgary with his wife Inga Gusarova, said it was his family’s long-standing connection with the Pontiac that motivated them to make the donation.
“Dad absolutely loved Shawville and was active in the community, especially Lions, curling, and the Hospital Board,” MacLachlan said. “My sisters and I were educated in Shawville, and Janice was a candy striper at the hospital. Both our parents received excellent palliative care there.”
His father passed away in 1987, and his mother in 2013. Both are buried in Shawville.
MacLachlan said it was through discussions with Dr. Tom O’Neill and hospital foundation vice-president Allan Dean that they landed on the idea of a nursing bursary.
“It seemed that nursing was an excellent way to ensure that young people with an interest in healthcare could stay in the community and contribute to it,” MacLachlan said.
In a phone conversation with THE EQUITY on Friday, Dean recalled MacLachlan contacting the Foundation last fall.
“He approached us with an offer to assist the Foundation in some way,” Dean said. “One thing led to another, and we came up with the idea of a bursary program.”
Dean underscored the importance to the Pontiac of helping more people enter the nursing profession.
“You can have the best surgeons and the best operating facilities in the world, but if you don’t have a nurse that’s in there at the same time, the operation is cancelled. It’s as simple as that,” Dean said.
“There’s a shortage of nurses within the whole health industry, but here in the Pontiac we’re handcuffed because of our close proximity to Ontario,” he said.
Pontiac’s nursing shortage is a problem well-known to Nicole Boucher-Larivière, Director of the Pontiac Health and Social Services Network.
“There are approximately 60 nurse vacancies in Pontiac’s health care facilities, which employ the equivalent of 500 full-time staff,” Boucher-Larivière told THE EQUITY.
“The fact that we are in competition with Ontario salaries makes it a lot harder. And the other issue we have in the Pontiac is that the pool of candidates is smaller than with other hospitals in Quebec because here we have to hire bilingual staff,” she said.
The challenges of recruiting and retaining nurses in the Pontiac are common throughout the Outaouais, as reflected in an open letter to Quebec health minister Christian Dubé, written by Dr. Christal Dionne, head of the CISSSO Emergency Department and published last week in Le Devoir.
“Our region’s proximity to Ontario is causing a massive exodus of health workers to a province that offers far more attractive pay and working conditions. It is no longer possible for our teams to compete against our neighbour,” wrote Dr. Dionne.
“It will soon no longer be possible to provide safe and quality emergency care in the Outaouais,” she said. “The only solution that can ensure the maintenance of services, beyond occasional replacements, is to offer our health professionals the same pay conditions that Ontario offers theirs.”


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