Activists and politicians worried about the fate of the Montreal’s Hôtel-Dieu hospital are trying to bring the issue to the forefront as the municipal election campaign enters its final stretch, saying they do not want the building converted to luxury condominiums.
"We think the Hôtel-Dieu's future must be planned in harmony with its original vocation," CSN union spokeswoman, Dominique Daignault, told Daybreak Montreal's Mike Finnerty.
Several municipal candidates, including incumbent Plateau-Mont-Royal mayor, Luc Ferrandez attended a demonstration Saturday outside the Mont-Royal metro station.
"We must negotiate with Quebec. It's the borough that has zoning powers. Now is the time for strong negotiation," said Ferrandez.
So far there are no plans announced to convert the hospital to a condo project, although last March the Montreal University Health Centre (CHUM) adopted a resolution to sell the building.
Daigneault, who represents the CHUM employees union, said that because $50 million in public funds were invested in the building's emergency room over the past 10 years, there is a responsibility to keep the facility in public service, either as a health centre or as social housing.
"If there is a lot of public money that was invested, we say that Hôtel-Dieu must stay in public hands," said Daigneault.
Since Hôtel-Dieu is located in the historic area of Mont-Royal, any zoning change will be subject to public consultation, and must be approved by the Ministry of Culture and the City of Montreal.
Quebec has formed a committee to consider the future of the Hôtel-Dieu and other hospitals which will be vacated when services move to the new $2.5 billion superhospital, projected to be completed in 2015.
Sylvain Villiard, CHUM's Secretary General and Associate Executive Director, said the $50 million was only for the facility's upkeep and unrelated to its future use.
"You’ve got to understand that we put money into Hôtel-Dieu because we give services there," said Villiard.
Villiard said no decision has yet been made about the future of the building, though it will involve the public consultation office and an interministerial committee.
Daignault said she believes it is important for concerned citizens to make their intentions known now, to ensure the project meets the needs of the population
"This is the reason why we want to make an intervention early," said Daignault. "This is why we are already saying what we want to do."