• Hunter Cresswell

Hills prefects push for more localized health care

Rural health services have been on the decline since Quebec centralized health care administration seven years ago, and now CISSSO may further reduce rural services in favour of a mega hospital in Hull.


But the push is on to preserve and even improve health care in the Gatineau Hills and other, more rural reaches of the Outaouais. MRC Vallée-de-la-Gatineau Prefect Chantal Lamarche was the spark in all of this.


In late-2018 she started calling for a change to health care services and administration in the Outaouais. She critiqued the lack of services in rural areas and demanded the dismissal of CISSSO CEO Jean Hébert. Quebec health minister Danielle McCann fired Hébert in February 2019. In October, Quebec Premier François Legault pledged to decentralize healthcare, an announcement applauded by Lamarche.


In December the MRC Vallée-de-la-Gatineau launched a health care pilot project with the aim of bringing local control back to healthcare. The MRC mayors council unanimously adopted a resolution in October to establish a working group focused on health to make sure that rural voices are at the table when health care decisions are made.


“I think it’s a good idea to see what more can be done locally to preserve proximity services,” MRC des Collines Prefect Marc Carrière said about the pilot project.

This week, Carrière told the Low Down that he wants to do something similar in the MRC des Collines.


“I prefer to have more services locally and less bureaucracy,” he said.

Carrière was the Chapleau MNA during the Barrette health care reform that was pushed through by his Quebec Liberal Party. When asked about how centralization affected the quality of health care, he said that “it’s time to see the results.”


Carrière said the focus of the group will be to promote keeping and improving health services in the MRC des Collines but to also study how those services have changed in recent years.


“I doubt that anyone in the Outaouais is against decentralization,” André Renaud said.

Renaud lives in Chelsea, served as mayor from 1971 to 1973, and served on the Centre Regional de Santé et Service Sociaux de l’Outaouais – which was scrapped when health administration was centralized into CISSSO – from 1984 to 2004. He’s working with Carrière on the MRC des Collines health committee which he said will be modelled after the MRC de Memphrémagog’s “vigilance committee” in the Eastern Townships. Renaud said that committee has members who are business owners, doctors, patients, and politicians that work with their local version of CISSSO on how health services are administered.


CISSSO plans to build a 3 million square foot, $2.5 billion hospital in Gatineau or Hull – the location hasn’t been decided yet – in the next eight to 10 years. But this 600-bed hospital could cost the smaller, rural, regional hospitals elsewhere in CISSSO’s territory.


In February 2021, CISSSO published a clinical plan centred around the proposal for the new regional hospital. The plan includes a recommendation that Wakefield Hospital should reduce services to become either just an emergency room with a CHSLD – a long-term senior care home – or an emergency room with a multi-service centre.