A press conference was called outside the CLSC in Quyon this morning (July 30), to denounce the lack of a lease renewal agreement between the CISSSO and the owner of the building. There is one month left on the current lease signed with owner Joanne Marcotte, and she has already put a For Sale sign in the front window, prompting plenty of concern and confusion from employees, patients and the community at large. The CISSSO only reached out Marcotte to arrange to begin negotiations for a renewal roughly 30 minutes before the press conference took place.
In a scrum with media, Marcotte alleged that the CISSSO was behind on rent payments, the CISSSO did not respond to this allegation in time for print.
Pontiac MNA André Fortin said that his grandfather helped build the village’s CLSC, calling it a vital service centre for the community.
“It’s a tough situation, it shouldn’t have even gone to this, it seems to be a bit of disregard towards the owner of the building but also to the community members here, the people that get their health care services at the Quyon CLSC. The Quyon CLSC is such an integral part of the community here, they provide services, they’re the only health service provider between Aylmer and Shawville and people rely on this,” he said.
Fortin said he was encouraged that the CISSSO management had finally set up a time to meet with Marcotte, but was frustrated that the situation had been allowed to fester for so long.
“What we have to do next is make sure that meeting on Thursday goes well, that they have reassurances immediately from the CISSSO that they will not go somewhere else, that they will not leave the community and really I want to see them stay here, if possible stay in this building, and find a solution, an agreement that works for everybody. This is something that should have been done months ago, now they’re up against the wall, and hopefully they can get this done and everybody can go back to providing health care to the patients here in the community,” he said.
Dr. Ruth Vander Stelt, the sole doctor currently working at the CLSC, said the location employs about 15 people, who were shocked and confused when the For Sale sign went up last week.
“Patients are extremely worried about the situation. I have everybody in my office since last week saying ‘What’s going to happen, what’s going to happen?’ and the sad part of it is, I have no idea and the only thing I can ask them to do is to contact who? Somebody that’s in the Pontiac? No, somebody in the city and they don’t return their calls. So we’re happy the media’s here because we have no other answers. We have nobody to talk to,” she said.
Vander Stelt, along with several other local doctors, signed an open letter in November 2020 calling for the decentralization of health care management. The provincial Liberals’ Bill 10, championed by former Health Minister Gaetan Barrette, centralized the region’s decision-making power in Gatineau back in 2015. The letter accumulated hundreds of signatures from health professionals and specialists across the province, but the current government didn’t make any moves to act on the suggested changes. Vander Stelt said that this latest debacle highlights the need for local managers who understand the needs of the community.
“We need local management, we needed it all along, it should have never gone to the city. The city can’t even keep a major emergency room open and intensive care that closed down during the pandemic, that is not reassuring for the population,” she said.
Josey Bouchard, the spokesperson for Pontiac Voice, a Facebook group that advocates for better health care services in the Pontiac, said that the situation was unacceptable.
“We are so upset about what’s happening. We have here, a simple lease renewal that’s been asked [for], and the owner, rightly, wants to renew different conditions and stuff like that, and she gets no answer. And a last minute call 30 minutes before we have a press conference saying, ‘Oh we’ll meet up with you and we’ll be very happy to see what we can do.’ And it’s like, it’s inadmissible. It’s a lack of respect for this partner, and it’s a lack of respect for the employees,” she said.
Bouchard went a step further and said that the current management should be fired.
“The solution is that everybody that’s in management in the city, who have no idea where we are and what we do, should be laid off. They should be taken away, we need an entirely new team of people who have not worked anywhere in Gatineau or Hull because evidently it wasn’t working very well before [Bill 10] and now it’s even worse, and they’ve contaminated all the other places where it was working well,” she said.
She echoed Vander Stelt’s call for a return to local managment.
“We’re not … a suburb, we are a rural community and it’s very different. We don’t work the same way, people don’t have the same means of transportation, people don’t have the same needs as people from the city would have, so we really need to have management back. Real management that can answer to the people, who can answer to their employees, and give them a yes or a no when it’s needed. In a short span of time, not three months after,” she said.
In an email, CISSSO media relations agent Patricia Rhéaume said that services at the Quyon CLSC are important for the community and stated that it was never their intention to close or move buildings.