• Hunter Cresswell

MRC Vallée creates local health group

Prefect: Centralization ‘destroyed’ health services up the line


People take health seriously up the line.


In December, the MRC Vallée-de-la-Gatineau launched a pilot project to bring local control back to healthcare.


“The citizens of the Vallée-de-la-Gatineau deserve to have access to local, quality services,” MRC Prefect Chantal Lamarche said. “MRC Vallée-de-la-Gatineau elected officials have therefore decided to take matters into their own hands in order to advance the issue. The Barrette reform has literally destroyed the health services offered in the Gatineau Valley.”


MRC Vallée-de-la-Gatineau Prefect Chantal Lamarche. Low Down file photo
MRC Vallée-de-la-Gatineau Prefect Chantal Lamarche. Low Down file photo

In 2015, the then Liberal Quebec government did away with local health boards in favour of centralized health service centres — now known as the Barrette reform, named after the then-Quebec health minister Gaétan Barrette. This reform reduced the number of local voices in conversations about health care policies and services.


The local health service centre is called Centre intégré de santé et des services sociaux de l’Outaouais, or CISSSO, and serves the vast Outaouais region, which covers most of west Quebec and is headquartered in Gatineau.


The MRC mayors council unanimously adopted a resolution in October that will establish a working group focused solely on health. The group aims to work with CISSSO to ensure there are locals making healthcare decisions, improving access to health services, and more.


During his inaugural speech at the National Assembly in October, Quebec Premier François Legault pledged to decentralize healthcare. Lamarche applauded Legault’s commitment.


CISSSO plans to build a 3 million-square-foot, $2.5 billion hospital in Gatineau or Hull – the location hasn’t been decided – in the next eight to 10 years. But this 600-bed hospital could impact 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 reduce services to become either an emergency room with a CHSLD – a long-term senior care home – or an emergency room with a multi-service centre. Despite being in the MRC des Collines, this hospital is the closest one for residents in Low, which is the southernmost municipality of the MRC Vallée-de-la-Gatineau.


Lamarche said the new hospital will be an asset, but remains concerned about the possible impacts on rural health services.


“In my opinion, the arrival of this new hospital is positive for the greater Outaouais region. However, we must remain on the lookout to ensure that we keep local services in our healthcare facilities in the Gatineau Valley,” she said.


Lamarche said that she hopes Legault sticks to his decentralization pledge, but wants to act locally rather than wait for change to come from the top-down.


“I also have confidence in the working committee formed to develop a pilot health project in the region. The primary objective of this project will be to ensure that there are local decision-makers on-site,” she said.