Doctors advocate for locally-managed healthcare

Julien St-Jean

Pontiac August 27, 2021

Doctors and elected officials from the Outaouais held a virtual press conference on Friday to advocate for decentralization of the healthcare system.

The press conference was held by the Quebec Association of Doctors for the Decentralization of the Health System (RQMDSS), a group made up of over 800 doctors from more than 50 hospitals across the province. The group advocates to restore local management of healthcare in Quebec.

Since the passing of the Bill 10 “Barrette reforms” in 2015, healthcare in the Outaouais has been managed by the CISSSO in Gatineau. 

Law 10 aimed to reduce bureaucracy and expenses in the health system by eliminating the province’s 18 regional health agencies. According to the RQMDSS, Law 10 has made the healthcare system less efficient and often makes it more difficult for patients to access services.

A local physician, Dr Vander Stelt, explained that rather than receiving treatment at local hospitals, patients in rural communities often have to go to hospitals in Gatineau or Montreal. Healthcare in the Pontiac has lost or seen a reduction in its ability to provide obstetrics, urology, gynecology, oncology, microbiology and X-ray services.

“For some of our most vulnerable patients, it is not fair and not right that they have to go all the way to Gatineau,” said Warden Jane Toller during the press conference. She expressed support for the RQMDSS on behalf of the MRC Pontiac.

According to staff of the Pontiac Community Hospital, some feel that the hospital can’t make their own decisions. The hospital previously had 17 managers who met monthly. Since the Barrette reforms, the management team has been drastically cut down and now operates out of Gatineau.

Vander Stelt described a lack of autonomy within hospitals and a lack of communication from the CISSSO, explaining that staff are not warned about vaccination clinics or other developments within the region that they would typically advertise. 

According to Toller, the hospital had previously been able to administer different services that now must be conducted elsewhere.

“Our hospital was an example of efficiency. It served the public well,” said Toller. “Since the change of Law 10, there’s been a huge difference. Our obstetric department is closed. We can’t have babies in the Pontiac.”

A Facebook group known as “Pontiac Voice” started in 2016 in response to changes made to health care because of Law 10. Some group members had joined CISSSO user and resident committees to express their concerns.

“In the first three years, we did try to explain to them the difference between the city and out here,” said spokesperson Josey Bouchard. “It was all falling on deaf ears.”

Bouchard described challenges locals face in accessing CISSSO health services, such as older residents being unable to travel long distances for health care or difficulties booking appointments due to poor internet services. She added that the Pontiac Voice supports the RQMDSS in advocating for a more locally-managed healthcare system. 

The RQMDSS has asked that Law 10 be reviewed to see if it has accomplished its objectives.

“We don’t think we need to completely change the law, we need to change the application of the law,” said Vander Stelt.

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