Saturday, July 13, 2024

Leaky boat

Somehow, our governments seem to have missed the baby boomer memo.
They appear not to have picked up on the fact that the largest demographic that has ever existed in our country would eventually grow older, retire, become senior citizens and need healthcare services in numbers larger than ever before.
It seems to have come as a surprise to our high-level decision-makers that baby boomers would now need more doctors, nurses and medical technicians, and hospitals, clinics and ambulances ready to provide health services.
And they seem to have missed the point that people who have been paying income tax all their lives should reasonably expect to benefit from what our governments have touted for decades as one of the greatest healthcare systems in the world.
Tragically, they can't. The true costs of providing healthcare services in the second millennium have been vastly underestimated and we have the sorry state of our healthcare services to show for it.
Rather than build up services in rural regions, such as the Pontiac, our governments have been building them up in cities in a way that can be seen as undermining the viability of life in rural communities.
In the process, they’ve missed the opportunity to figure out how to recruit and retain staff in our west Quebec healthcare system when significantly higher-paying healthcare jobs are available in Ontario, an easy commute across the river.
One of our front-page stories this week is on a contingency plan that appears to be a short-term response to the cumulative effect of all these oversights, most acutely staffing shortages in health care anticipated over the summer.
The possible reorganization of personnel and services across the CISSSO network could have implications for imaging, emergency services, mental health, long-term care beds, childbirth, intensive care and pediatrics. We could see operating rooms in the Pontiac hospital, as well as those in Maniwaki and Papineau, shut down so that staff could be relocated to work in the operating room in the Hull Hospital.
All told, there could be significant disruptions to healthcare services over the coming months, requiring people in need of care to travel further afield to get them.
Part of the grand strategy is to offer healthcare professionals in Hull a bonus for not moving across the river to Ontario where the pay is better. While this may encourage staff currently working in Hull not to relocate outside the province, it could also have the perverse effect of inducing healthcare practitioners in areas such as the Pontiac to relocate to Hull where they would be eligible for the bonus for staying in Quebec.
And all of this is on top of the slow drip of interruptions, postponements and outright discontinuation of services at our local hospital that have been going on for years.
It all paints a very sad and unfortunate picture, to say the least. It looks like lack of foresight. Lack of imagination. Neglect. It looks like the need to address mounting healthcare challenges has been kicked down the road by successive governments of all stripes for decades.
Here in the Pontiac, we have had the great good fortune of some very dedicated healthcare professionals who have been sticking by the local population for years, working harder and longer than anyone should, especially when carrying the stress that comes with a career in the medical profession, going above and beyond, in many cases, well into their retirement years to keep the local boat afloat.
But our local boat is leaking at a rate faster than we can bail.
Shame on our governments for letting things get into this sorry state, and on us for letting them get away with it.

Charles Dickson


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