More women crossing Ottawa River to give birth
Québec insists on bringing expecting parents back for births still a priority
How far is the provincial government willing to go to repatriate births to the Outaouais? In recent years, the Ministère de la Santé et des Services sociaux (MSSS) announced millions in investments to reduce the number of women crossing to Ontario to give birth. “It’s the MSSS’ desire to offer quality community-based health care. This means as many Québec women as possible should have access to perinatal services and give birth in Québec hospitals. The MSSS has invested heavily in recent years to strengthen health care and perinatal care, and will continue,” said Marie-Claude Lacasse of the MSSS.
What $14 million buys
Last February, the former PQ government announced over $14 million to repatriate 800 Outaouais births from Ontario yearly. The millions were directed toward redesigning Gatineau hospital’s third floor, to build 32 private birthing rooms (labour, birth, recovery and post-partum), a caesarean section unit, and to increase the neonatal unit from 14 to 16 beds. There will also be two rooms for parents whose children are being treated in neonatal. Obstetrics-gynecology and at-risk pregnancy clinics will be grouped on the 7th floor. These renovations should be finished in 2018.
At the February press conference, the PQ government also announced the relocation of Outaouais’ busy birthing centre to a new building near Gatineau’s CLSC. This plan was reconfirmed in December by Liberal Health Minister Gaétan Barrette. The new centre will increase its midwives from 10 to 15 and births from 180 to 320 annually.
From 2012-2013 and 2011-2012, about 1,247 Québec mothers gave birth in Ontario; in 2011-2010, 1,091 had crossed the river. Women often report that Ontario hospitals are better equipped and offer more comfort. Private rooms are more available in Ontario. Many Outaouais women head over to the Montfort Hospital which serves birthing mothers in French. The government wants to curb use of Ontario facilities because of reimbursement costs. According to Health Minister Barrette, the province is spending $200 million for medical services which should be available in Québec.
Enter the “Couillard Cuts”
Many residents fear the new Liberal cost-cutting will limit reimbursing costs for births in Ontario, something the MSSS denies. The repatriation of Québec patients is a project introduced at least twenty years ago, resulting in several top-notch rural facilities. These facilities appear to be under threat with Premier Couillard’s budget cuts, all of which would, in effect, make any local repatriation program empty.