Superhospital wants to offload care to the regions

Changes coming to Quebec health care act?

By Robert Frank

With fewer hospital beds in the near future, McGill University Hospital Centre (MUHC) wants Laval residents to go for treatment closer to home.

“It’s called repatriation of clientele,” quipped the superhospital’s public affairs and strategic planning director Richard Fahey, “to ensure that patients are treated as close as possible to home and [only] come to MUHC when they need very specific treatment not available elsewhere.”

“Roughly 10 per cent of our patients come from Laval, the Laurentian and Lanaurdière regions,” he told The Suburban in an interview. “The question is: should they [instead] be treated there, rather than at the MUHC?”

He allowed that Laval, West Island residents and those of other outlying regions, “would remain the mandate of MUHC and the Centre hospitalier de l’Université de Montréal (CHUM), when they are very sick.”

Compounds dearth of English service

Laval residents have for decades voted with their feet, heading over the bridge in droves, due to the difficulty of getting health care service here in English.

Fahey contended that this has clogged MUHC’s emergency rooms with regional itinerants seeking treatment in English.

“The challenge that we have is that patients may come to a bilingual Montreal institution like MUHC, but—given our mandate and the level of care that they require—they could be better served closer to home,” he suggested. “Instead of spending 15 hours in the emergency room with a non-life-threatening illness, if you went to your local physician clinic or hospital closer to home, you might have less wait time.”

Legislation pending?

Fahey disclosed that MUHC is currently exploring, together with Quebec’s health ministry and regional health authorities, how this arrangement could be formalized.

“It’s also [their] responsibility to structure [health care service] to provide optimum care for patients,” he reminded.

“Remember, in the health act, patients [currently] have the right to go to the [health care] institution of their choice,” Fahey acknowledged. “They have the right to go where they want, to seek what’s most effective, from the patient’s point of view.”

Regions face influx

Besides the challenge of ramping up their ability to serve patients in English, The Suburban asked Fahey whether outlying health care facilities have the capacity to absorb the influx of hordes of patients who hitherto were treated in Montreal.

“In our discussions with them, they have indicated that they are willing,” he replied, “and they said that they are capable of taking on such a load.”

“Our discussions are ongoing,” he added, “but no one has said ‘No, we cannot take them.’”

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