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Off-Islanders swell Ontario hospitals

Last year, when Vaudreuil-Dorion resident Kim Rutkowski Shaap’s one-and-a-half-year-old son Wyatt woke up with a fever of 105 F, she knew he needed medical attention.

After medication failed to bring down his fever, she brought him to the Hôpital du Suroît in Salaberry-de-Valleyfield.

“A nurse told us it would be a 12-hour wait,” she said. “Even with his high fever.”

Another woman in the waiting room told her she could use her son’s medicare card in Ontario, and might be able to get seen by a doctor sooner.

“He was seen by the nurse, had a urine sample done, and was seen by the doctor in 55 minutes,” Rutkowski Shaap said of the service she received at the small Glengarry Memorial Hospital in Alexandria, Ont.

Rutkowski Shaap said she wouldn’t hesitate to bring her children to a hospital in Ontario if they have future health issues.

“What do you do when your kids get sick and their pediatricians’ offices are closed, clinics are packed, and hospitals are packed?”

For Rutkowski Shaap, and a growing list of Off-Island residents, the answer is to go west, to hospitals in Cornwall, Alexandria or Hawkesbury, in Ontario. Those hospitals offer bilingual service, because of the large number of French-speakers in the region, and they accept Quebec medicare cards.

Statistics from the Régie de l’assurance maladie du Québec, show the province is paying 90.5 per cent more than it did in the year 2000 for patients from this province to get treatment at the Hawkesbury and District Hospital. That hospital saw one of the steepest increases in Quebec patients over that period. Overall in the last 11 years 31.4 per cent more Quebecers sought treatment in Ontario hospitals, rising from 96,366 in 2000 to 126,640 in 2011. In that time, the amount that the Quebec health ministry paid to those hospitals jumped 74.7 per cent from $17.1 million in 2000 to $29.8 million in 2011. In that time, visits by Quebecers to the Hawkesbury hospital increased 50.6 per cent, from 5,882 visits to 8,860, costing the Quebec health ministry $1.3 million. Cornwall saw a smaller overall increase of patients from Quebec, a jump of 12.2 per cent during the same time period, but they represented a 58-per-cent increase in costs at $72,991.

Noémie Vanheuverzwijn, a spokesperson for Quebec’s health ministry, explained part of the reason for the increase is that the regions near the Ontario border have growing populations. She said the issue is further complicated by a shortage of doctors and specialists in the area. She said that’s why the biggest increase in Quebecers seeking treatment in Ontario were for doctors working in practices outside hospitals.

For Rutkowski Shaap, the statistics illustrate the need for a new hospital to serve the area. A 243-bed facility was announced in 2010. In July, the Liberal government announced it had determined a spot to build the $40-million facility and planned to make that spot public in September or October. Yves Bolduc, health minister at the time, said the hospital was on track to be completed by 2018, but planning has ground to a halt under the new Parti Québécois government.

St-Lazare resident Jen Riley said she would take her son Chase Cauchi, 2, to Hawkesbury over any hospital on the island.

“With any emergency situation, Hawkesbury would be the first place I would turn to, if I didn’t need to go downtown to the Children’s Hospital,” Riley said, adding that the two hospitals that are closer to her home have notoriously long wait times.

About three months ago, Riley took her son to Hawkesbury twice in three weeks when he had a fever and problems breathing. She said she was in and out in less than an hour the first time, after seeing the doctor and getting medication.

“I know how long the wait is at Lakeshore, and I figured for an extra 10 minutes, it would be worth it,” she said. “The second time was a little longer; it took about four hours because they did a chest X-ray that time. I think it would have taken 30 hours or more at Lakeshore.”

jmagder@montrealgazette.com
Twitter: @OffIslandNews
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5 comments

  1. By Luc Horne

    Another option for those requiring REAL emergency care, like the Shaaps required, is the Anna Laberge hospital in Chateauguay. With the new highway 30, the drive is about 20 minutes from Vaudreuik Dorion. The hospital is right at an exit and offers courteous bilingual services. I say, REAL emergencies because I have witnessed and heard that far too many individuals use the emergency for minor aches and pains and a fever associated with a flu that could easily be remedied with over the counter products.

  2. @Luc Horne- the Anna Laberge hospital is not necessarily any better for wait times. I had to bring my 13 month old daughter there, as she had a high fever that was not going down, lathargic and was refusing liquids, therefor becoming dehydrated (her pediatrician was on vacation as well as his back up and I was told I had to bring her to the Emergency as children her age become dehydrated quite quickly and I could not wait until morning.
    I live in Chateauguay so went to Anna Laberge. We waited a good 7 hours if not longer to be seen by the doctor. It turns out she had strep throat, so needed antibiotics abd fluids to rehydrate.
    It really depends on busy they are and I guess the time you are there.
    It’s tricky because, when it comes to our children especially young ones, we cannot take chances and wait things out, like you do as an adult.

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