Hospital Locations and Development Plans
At the time this editorial is written, indications are that the new hospital in Gatineau will be built in the Hautes Plaines neighbourhood.
There have been many letters from readers of the Aylmer Bulletin in recent weeks stressing how much sense it would make to build the new hospital in Aylmer. Sadly, one of the main obstacles standing in the way of Aylmer having a hospital is a lack of a suitable location. The only option to have received serious consideration was on Allumetières across from the Canadian Tire. This is a lovely wooded area of which residents of Champlain Park are quite attached. Moreover, the National Capital Commission refused to consider developing this location due to it being one of the last natural watersheds in Gatineau.
Residents were understandably bewildered to hear that after years of major housing complexes and condos being built in all parts of the region that the city hadn’t reserved some land for such an important service in Aylmer, especially given the city’s strategy of concentrating retirement complexes in the area. Seniors are more likely to need hospital care, and it’s far from ideal to require long commutes for those with fragile health and regular medical appointments.
The city council made the argument for having a hospital downtown, which makes sense for residents of Hull if their current hospital is forced to close. Yet closing the Hull Hospital is completely unnecessary, especially if the new hospital won’t be near the old site.
The mayor, France Bélisle, has used the pages of the Bulletin to point out that the new hospital will offer a much wider variety of services, and is indeed meant to replace the hospital in Hull, as per directives from the province. Yet if there’s one thing that people in Gatineau can agree on, it’s that basic services like emergency care are sorely lacking. Emergency departments were closed for many weeks recently due to lack of staff at several hospitals in the region, including the Gatineau Hospital. We’d all like to see the provincial government solidify primary care before providing more specialized services locally. Hence building a new hospital while closing the existing one in Hull will be taking two steps forward and one step back. This is even more the case if residents of Hull need to travel to the northern limits of the city to get services that were previously available in their neighbourhood. And as Mayor Bélisle has repeatedly stated, there will be an immense financial burden for the city to provide necessary road infrastructure and other amenities at the proposed site in Hautes Plaines which is unprepared for such a major development.
Having the nearest emergency services located in downtown Hull was already problematic for Aylmer, and especially for its large senior community. Having to go to Hautes Plaines will be much worse still. If the city wishes to continue concentrating Gatineau’s retired population in Aylmer, it will have to share responsibility with the provincial government to arrange for necessary health services at a reasonable distance.