The Wakefield Hospital’s emergency room situation “cannot be tolerated any longer,” according to a member of the region’s health board, the Centre de sante et de services sociaux Collines (CSSS).
Marcel Chartrand said it should be double the size, as the ER is accommodating double the patient volume for which it was built.
“It gets worse every month,” said Chartrand.
Initially built in the mid-1990s for a capacity of 12,000 people, it processes 25,000 patients annually.
A contributor to the problem is the increased volume of people from Gatineau heading north, to avoid 16-hour-wait times at the Hull and Gatineau hospitals, respectively.
Originally designed for only four emergency room stretchers, the Wakefield facility accommodates far beyond capacity, with about a dozen patients bedded in back-up stretchers.
“We find room for them, but it’s not ideal,” said Chartrand, noting the Collines CSSS has the fastest-growing aging population in Quebec.
The CSSS des Collines board is proposing a $30-million expansion that would include a larger emergency room (four additional beds), new technology (cardiology machine and MRI scanner), and two new CHSLDs (long-term care facilities) in the region.
Last summer, former Liberal health minister Yves Bolduc gave the project a green light during the election campaign. But with the Parti Quebecois victory, the Wakefield project has been put on hold.
“Doctors and nurses are struggling with the hospital’s lack of technology,” said Chartrand. (That) means Wakefield patients are often having to be shipped to Gatineau or Hull for scans and tests, and then sent back to Wakefield with the results.
“If nothing happens in the next five years, it’s going to get out of hand completely,” said MRC des Collines Prefect Robert Bussiere, adding that the population has grown from 21,000 in 1997 (when the Wakefield Hospital was built) to 34,000 in 2010.
Bussiere noted that the province has recently invested money in hospitals in Buckingham, Gatineau and Hull – but nothing at Wakefield.
Josianne Menard, a spokesperson for the Agence de la sante et des services sociaux de l’Outaouais (ASSSO), the regional health board, said there are nine health-related projects on the table at the Health Ministry, including an expansion for the surgery block at the hospital in Hull.
She noted there’s no project more important than any other, and that such (priority) decisions are the province’s responsibility.
She commented that the CSSS de Gatineau is working to improve wait times in its own hospitals and has seen positive results. She added that most people who come to Wakefield are from outside the region, many seeking treatment for non-emergency issues (such as flu symptoms). The lack of area doctors is also a contributor.
“(The situation) does not have an easy answer,” she said. “There are many factors.”
Chartrand advised that they are waiting while the government prioritizes projects, and expects a response on the Wakefield project in April.