Health officials to close Réné Cassin senior center

Health officials to close Réné Cassin senior center

Decision called “outrageous” and will affect home-care in district with highest number of seniors

By P.A.Sévigny

Although it’s only been a few weeks since Bill 10—the government’s new health reform law—created the new regional health centres that are meant to transform medical care in both the city and the province, several local caregivers were surprised to hear that health executives working for the west end’s Centre intégré universitaire de santé et de services sociaux (CIUSSS) are planning to close down a popular local senior drop-in centre that has  been a vital part of the local CLSC’s home-care services for the past 25 years.

“It’s outrageous,” said at least one well-placed source who is still working within the city’s medical community.

Although she wishes to maintain her anonymity for all the obvious reasons, the woman is a healthcare veteran who believes that the government has a moral and ethical duty to maintain what is proven to be a successful facility instead of closing it up in order to save a few dollars on the backs of some of the poorest and most vulnerable people in the city.

“These are the people who built this city…and now that they need our help, we should recognize that they deserve everything we can do for them.”

Even as the city’s entire health community is still reeling from the multiple millions that are being carved away from their working budgets, health and social service workers within the Réné Cassin CLSC (Centre Local de Services Communautaires) are left to wonder why the regional health center’s management decided to close down what is one of the more successful (and least expensive) programs in the city’s entire extended domestic health care system.

Not only does the drop-in program offer structured programs for frail and vulnerable seniors who desperately need to break the social isolation that often defines the misery of old age, but it also provide a well-appreciated relief for caregivers who are recognized as the “silent heroes” of the provincial health care system.

According to several sources, the CLSC drop-in program produced excellent results even if it was a bare-bones program that could not even afford to provide a lunch for its clients even if the literature on the subject indicates that elderly and depressed seniors eat better in a open and friendly environment. While program executives did their best to keep fees to a minimum, it still cost a family over a hundred dollars per month to send their loved ones to the drop-in center for a minimum of one day per week.

“For sure it cost money,” said The Suburban’s source. “But this is my mother and I want her to have the best care I can find when I’m not there to take care of her.’

According to Véronic Lapalme—a local union leader—the CLSC staff are already getting ready to mount their own offensive against the CIUSSS decision to close the drop-in center. In a petition that is beginning to make its way onto the city’s social media pages, the Réné Cassin drop-in center is described as being one of the oldest drop-in centers of its kind in the province.

As it continues to serve a working population for whom the care of a frail and elderly parent can often dominate and define the life of an entire family, the program has also become a valuable teaching tool for university faculties and students who are working towards a career in geriatric health care.
According to Lapalme and the on-line petition, the local drop-in program is also a vital part of the local community’s extended domestic health care program and senior city health managers should make every effort to reconsider their decision and to do what they can to preserve the program.

According to program director Liza Lacasse and health care executive Christine Touchette, there is little that can be done to reverse the regional health care manager’s decision. “People should think about it as a re-organization instead of just saying that we’re closing the facility,” said Touchette.

During a subsequent interview, Herb Finkleberg – the head of the Cumming’s Center for Seniors—said that although he had already spoken to regional health executives about the impending closure, he believes that all of the communities assorted senior support groups will have to pitch in if they are to come up with a solution for all of the CLSC’s clients who will soon have nowhere to go. “I could open up on Sunday,” Finkleberg said, “…but so far, I can’t do it because there’s no money to pay for it.”

While other senior support groups such as NDG’s New Hope Center and Westmount’s Saint Marguerite may be able to help, nothing is yet clear.
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Only three weeks left for René Cassin seniors drop-in centre
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