The project for a new hospital in Gatineau is in trouble
The construction of a third hospital in Gatineau, which would complement and multiply the medical services offered to an ever-expanding population, was the figurehead of the Coalition Avenir Québec (CAQ) government's election promises made in 2018. The CAQ, which has been criticised many times on this subject, is trying as best it can to make this project a reality in the run-up to the next provincial elections in October 2022.
– A site in the suburbs or downtown?
The location of the future hospital centre is the source of a thousand problems for the political authorities concerned. In fact, the ideal location suggested by several organisations representing citizens would be downtown, close to public transportation and bicycle paths, and easily accessible to residents of all districts. It should also be noted that the Aylmer sector, whose number of citizens continues to grow, would benefit from a nearby hospital.
Unfortunately, in the last few weeks, some sources close to the government in power have mentioned that the government's choice of site for the future Centre hospitalier universitaire affilié de l'Outaouais (CHAUO) has been made: the targeted location is on the boulevard de la Technologie, on the edge of Highway 5, far from the popular downtown area and public transportation. This project goes against the City of Gatineau's goals and plans for urban sprawl, climate emergency and centralization of health care.
It is also worth noting the observations made by several stakeholders in this file that the Outaouais health care system needs more than a third hospital. The labour shortage that currently exists in almost all economic sectors is even more glaring when we look at the region's health care workers.
The underfunding of the Outaouais and Pontiac municipal health network, defined as being disproportionate to the size of the population according to a 2018 study by the Institut de recherche et d'informations socioéconomiques (IRIS), is also having an impact on the network's ability to create jobs and training programs in the field.
Researcher Bernand Schepper, a signatory to the IRIS study report, concluded at the time that "if the Ministry of Health and Social Services' expenditures were proportional to the population, the Outaouais would receive more than $250 million more annually to meet the health and social services needs of its population." The coup de grâce for an already more than shaky health care system? The proximity of Ontario, more specifically Ottawa, which continues to serve a large number of patients from Quebec, and the costs that the province of Quebec pays to Ontario for the services provided to these patients (we are talking about $107 million annually according to the IRIS report).
— Gatineau's third hospital project over time:
August 2018: The Coalition Avenir Québec commits, through its leader François Legault, to build a third hospital in the Outaouais region if their party is elected.
October 2020: Christian Dubé, Minister of Health and Social Services at the time, and Mathieu Lacombe, Minister responsible for the Outaouais and councillor for Papineau, officially announced the construction of a future 600-bed hospital in the region. This announcement surpasses the figures promised by the CAQ in 2018, which aimed to add 170 beds in the Gatineau health network.
April 2021: A call for proposals is launched by the Société québécoise des infrastructures (SQI) to determine the various sites that could physically house the future hospital and its campus.
May 2021: 14 proposals are selected and analyzed by the Centre intégré de santé et des services sociaux de l'Outaouais, the Ministère de la santé et des services sociaux and the SQI.
November 2021: Following her election, the mayor of Gatineau, France Bélisle, questions the Quebec government about the choice of site for the future hospital (which was to be unveiled before the end of 2021). Although the site near Highway 5 was in the eye of the Quebec government, the latter agreed to review the other proposed sites.
January 2022: On the eve of the announcement of the choice of the future hospital site, the Coalition pour un centre hospitalier accessible et durable en Outaouais (CCHADO) submits four other potential site proposals located in the vicinity of Vieux-Hull to the municipal officials.
March 2022: The Quebec government lets the rumour fly that the choice of the future site will indeed be on the boulevard de la Technologie. Several actors publicly denounce this choice, such as several municipal elected officials, the Gatineau Chamber of Commerce, the STO, the CCHADO and many others.
April 2022: Following a mass protest movement by citizens who deplore the unsuitable choice of site for the future hospital, the Quebec government agrees to review the options available for the choice of land.