Monday, July 22, 2024


The arrival of the new year brings all sorts of new possibilities.
And what better way to greet the new year than with a hearty, warm welcome to the newest additions to the community, the babies of 2023. We’re pleased as punch to be able to introduce to you 18 of Pontiac’s newest arrivals (see page 8).
It has been the hope among many in the Pontiac over recent years that the Pontiac hospital would once again be able to host expectant mothers for the birth of their babies.
In years gone by, our first issue of the year has typically featured a story on the first baby to be born in the hospital in Shawville. Not this year, not last year and, sadly, this hasn’t happened for a few years now, not since the closure of the obstetrics ward at the hospital in Shawville.
And despite assurances that it would reopen at some point, it is still not possible to give birth at the Shawville hospital. It may not have been the intention that it was closing permanently, but after three years of no service, this certainly appears to be the case.
A look though our page eight collection of babies born into Pontiac families last year bears testimony to this fact. You will see that almost none of them were born in the Pontiac, or even in Quebec, for that matter.
It’s not a good sign.
Anyone planning to have a baby has to plan to have it in some other hospital outside the Pontiac, whether in Renfrew, Pembroke, Gatineau, Ottawa or any other nearby facility. As much as expectant parents are undoubtedly grateful to have been welcomed and cared for by nearby hospitals, there is no replacement for being able to have your child born in your home community.
It’s true, parts of the Pontiac are closer to Pembroke than to Shawville. Others are closer to Gatineau and Ottawa. So, for expectant mothers in those areas, it might make sense to go elsewhere.
And for the population living within 30 minutes of Shawville, do the numbers warrant keeping the birthing facility open, and keeping the nurses and doctors on hand who specialize in obstetrics?
In other words, there may be logic to keeping the facility closed.
Of course, there’s much more to life than logic. There’s community. There’s home. There’s peace of mind from being among familiar people when you most need support. There’s family and friends.
And, not insignificantly, there is the feeling that we matter up here in the Pontiac, that we matter enough for the powers that be to restore the means to support our primary rite of passage, the birth of our children.
To our long and growing list of New Year’s wishes we would add the hope that the obstetrics unit will one day be reopened as part of a renewed Pontiac hospital that is once again the vital centre of community health that it once was.

Charles Dickson


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