Pontiac Jan. 12, 2023
Vincent Marissal, MNA for the riding of Rosemont in Montreal and Québec solidaire’s (QS) healthcare critic in the National Assembly visited three healthcare facilities in the Pontiac as a part of a province-wide fact finding tour.
“It’s basically a journalist thing,” Marissal said in an interview with THE EQUITY. “I’ve been a journalist for almost 30 years. So this is about chatting with people because they have some solutions. It’s important for me to not only just critique, but to come up with some ideas, and also to be able to speak with the regions.”
Marissal visited the CLSC in Mansfield-et-Pontefract, The Pontiac Hospital and the CLSC in Quyon on Jan. 11 and Jan 12.
Marissal said his biggest takeaway from the tour was that the presence of Ontario across the river was drawing away Pontiac’s healthcare workers. He said that conditions in Quebec that are causing Quebec nurses to leave and work in Ontario need to be addressed and that the two provinces should work together to solve the issue.
“You have the right to earn money, and you have the right to have nice conditions. If it’s better on the other side of the river, and there’s a bridge, I mean, I can’t blame them, but we have a problem of shortage of staff in the Pontiac, it’s even worse than in the rest of Quebec,” he said, reiterating that measures need to be taken to attract nurses back to the Pontiac.
Marissal said another concern he heard was the precarious position of the Pontiac Hospital and expressed concern over more staff being drawn away from it when the new hospital in Gatineau is complete.
“Is it a fatality? Or can we do something about it?” he rhetorically asked about the future of the Pontiac hospital.
On reopening the obstetrics unit, Marissal said: “What I’ve heard this morning is not very encouraging, and I don’t think the government is paying very much attention to the Pontiac region and its women. And it’s a shame. I mean, you have the right to give birth to where you live, no matter where you live in Quebec.”
He expressed concern that women would have to travel hours to a hospital while in labour, especially when road conditions are as bad as they were during his visit.
“They said [the government] the closure is temporary but it’s been like this for three years. Three years looks more like permanent to me,” said Marissal about the lack of progress the government is making on the file.
On the concerns among anglophones that they are losing access to healthcare services in English, Marissal said:
“It’s a concern, of course, you should be able to be treated in English if you speak English. That’s not a debate for me. But it works both ways. If you are francophone in this region or in the West Island of Montreal, you should be able also to be served and treated in French. We’re on the same page, all parties in Quebec, we should be able to give service in the language of English or French.”
In terms of solutions to the understaffing problem which is at the root of the closure of the obstetrics unit and other issues, Marissal said he wished he had a magic solution. However, he said two immediate solutions QS is advocating for are the closure of private nursing agencies and renewing the province’s commitment to public healthcare.
“The system is trending towards the private sector more and more,” he said. “So I think it’s for the government to stand firm on that and have a commitment that we will go back to the basics with a public system just like we have Quyon and Coulonge. Apparently, it works. It’s not rocket science.”
On ongoing negotiations between the provinces and the federal government over healthcare funding, Marissal said: “The money that we will eventually get from the federal government is our money and it should come without any conditions. There are some grey areas in the constitution but they are no grey areas in the matter of who’s in charge of the health sector, it’s clearly Quebec. So the money should come and Ottawa should stop playing games.”
Overall Marissal praised the work of local healthcare workers like Dr. Ruth Vander Stelt. He said that local healthcare workers and authorities should be given more autonomy to determine how care is delivered in the regions.
He added that based on the discussions he had with local healthcare workers that Quebec City was blocking local initiatives in healthcare, which prevents a lot of progress from being made.
He added that he’ll he take what learned back to the National Assembly.
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