March 20th saw representatives of the Centre intégré de santé et de services sociaux de l’Outaouais (CISSSO) descend upon Pontiac for a public meeting on health care. Over 120 people attended the meeting, which featured strong representation from municipal leaders, health care professionals, and union representatives.
The pay-to-park scheme that was tentatively set to be implemented at the Shawville Hospital on April 1 of this year was discussed in depth. For a number of months Pontiac Voice – a community Facebook group nearing 3000 members – has fought the needless implementation of this scheme.The Shawville Hospital is located in a rural area, surrounded by free street parking, and the implementation of a paid system has received tremendous opposition from municipal and provincial leaders, political parties, and the public at large.
People will not pay for something they can obtain for free, and hospital patients will simply park further away – potentially at their own risk – to avoid these fees. Unlike in urban areas, paid-parking will not even be able to pay for itself here.
Pontiac Voice has achieved results. We were successful in pushing back the implementation date for paid-parking to April 1st of this year. Due to our pressure, CISSSO just announced the possibility of a deal to be worked out between municipalities that surround the Shawville Hospital, where we would see the costs of parking paid for by our municipalities as opposed to hospital visitors.
The implementation of paid-parking at the Shawville Hospital for the general population now appears to be on hold pending discussion. Hospital employees would still be forced to pay for their own parking, and are still set to begin paying as of April 1.
This tentative arrangement is not an ideal solution for several reasons. Primarily, the costs of parking will still have to be paid for by the local community. Municipal budgets are stretched thin as it is, and there is little wiggle-room for the taxpayer in today’s economy. Pontiac faces serious economic challenges, and burdening our population with additional fees and taxes must be avoided at all cost.
Additionally, I’ve stayed overnight at the Shawville Hospital. Healthcare workers have difficult jobs, not solely because they occasionally have to deal with the likes of me, but because in addition to their medical work they also act as counselors to those who are grieving. They are social workers, keeping the fabric of our lives together when we are vulnerable – we must return the favour.
I commend our municipal leaders for thinking outside the box and for working on our behalf. The most significant aspect of CISSSO willing to negotiate with municipalities is that it means we have gotten noticed. We must continue to make our voice heard now more than ever.
Many medical facilities within the federal boundaries of the Pontiac are rural in nature, and several already charge for parking. Email CISSSO at email@example.com and tell them you support rural health care and rural health care workers: NO to paid-parking at rural hospitals!
United with one voice we are impossible to ignore.