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CISSSO plans could see summer closure of OR

Outaouais’s healthcare network, the Centre intégré de santé et de services sociaux de l’Outaouais (CISSSO), has prepared contingency plans to deal with anticipated staffing shortages over the summer that may, in the worst case scenario, see the region’s rural operating rooms shut down, with services moved to Hull and Gatineau hospitals, Le Droit reported last week.
The contingency plans, a copy of which was obtained by Le Droit but which has not yet been seen by THE EQUITY, detail a few different scenarios for the period of June 17 to Sept. 8, to deal with repercussions of greater staffing shortages that may arise when currently employed healthcare workers take their vacations.
These plans map out how CISSSO will reorganize personnel in rural and urban hospitals across its network, which even without the added pressure from summer vacations, is already understaffed.
According to Le Droit, one series of plans addresses various scenarios of shortages in the health network’s imaging sector, and the other series of plans deals with shortages in the network’s operating services.
In the worst case scenario, the Gatineau hospital would offer only limited emergency services, as well as mental health services and long-term care beds, and its entire radiology department could close completely, forcing the relocation of essential services including childbirth, intensive care and pediatrics, to the Hull hospital.
Also in this worst case scenario, the Hull hospital alone would take on the bulk of operations for the 400,000 people in the Outaouais, with operating rooms in Pontiac, Maniwaki and Papineau hospitals shutting down so that staff could be relocated to work in the operating room in the Hull Hospital.
THE EQUITY requested an interview with CISSSO president and CEO Marc Bilodeau on Thursday last week, and has been scheduled to speak with him this Wednesday.
Pontiac officials speak out
Last week provincial and federal elected officials for the Pontiac added their voices to the growing cries for immediate assistance in the Outaouais.
Pontiac MP Sophie Chatel wrote a letter to Quebec’s Minister of Health Christian Dubé and to Minister of Culture and Communication, Mathieu Lacombe, expressing her concerns surrounding the state of health care in the region.
“It is imperative that the Quebec government take urgent measures to prevent a breakdown in healthcare services in our region,” Chatel wrote, in French. “Although health comes under provincial jurisdiction, I would nevertheless like to express the urgency of the situation in the Outaouais.”
Her letter went on to cite several statistics that highlight the urgency of resolving the healthcare staffing shortage across the Outaouais region.
One set of statistics showed that in 2021, lung cancer patients in the region had the lowest survival rate in the province, in large part due to delays in requests for CT scans. She said the situation worsened when magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) was discontinued at the Gatineau hospital due to a shortage of technologists.
Chatel pointed to the region’s proximity to Ontario as the leading cause of the staffing shortage, and said while the bonuses offered by the Quebec government to staff in Hull and Gatineau hospitals is appreciated, this initiative needs to be extended to staff in rural hospitals.
“This measure must apply to healthcare staff in hospitals in rural regions of the Outaouais, such as Maniwaki, Buckingham, and Shawville, which are already weakened by the trend towards urbanization and over-specialisation in healthcare in Quebec and Canada,” the letter said.
Pontiac MNA and health critic for the official opposition André Fortin also continued to push for immediate solutions to address the growing crisis in the Outaouais.
“This is not a contingency plan. This is an announced catastrophe. What is the premier going to do about this?” Fortin asked in a question directed to Premier François Legault on May 22, regarding CISSSO’s contingency plans.
Minister of Health Christian Dubé responded to the question, explaining that the ministry asks every healthcare network across the province to come up with contingency plans going into the summer for best and worst-case scenarios.
Minister Dubé said his government is aware of the challenges posed by the competition with Ontario, and will do what it can to improve the situation, without providing specific details as to what immediate measures it would take.
Also last week, Fortin requested the province’s health and social services commission visit the Outaouais so they can see for themselves the urgency with which immediate and greater support from the province is needed.

by Sophie Kuijper Dickson
Gatineau
May 27, 2024

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