Western Quebecers in need of hospital care flock to Hawkesbury

Wait times at Montreal hospitals and difficulties finding a family doctor have Quebecers using services just over the Ontario border in Hawkesbury.

Waiting times, lack of family doctors leading Quebec residents to opt for health services in Ontario town

The Hawkesbury & District General Hospital is popular with Quebecers from Lachute and points further east. (CBC)

Wait times at Montreal hospitals and difficulties finding a family doctor have Quebecers using services just over the Ontario border in the town of Hawkesbury.

Many of the Quebecers using services at the Hawkesbury & District General Hospital are from Lachute, which is a town on Montreal's North Shore situated about 30 kilometres from Hawkesbury. Residents are travelling to Ontario for medical services even though the town of Lachute has its own hospital.

Others, like Laura McCaffrey, make the 20-minute drive from Hudson, Que., to Hawkesbury, Ont., when they need hospital services. 

Hudson resident Laura McCaffrey said she can be in and out of the emergency department at the Hawkesbury hospital within two hours. (CBC)
"We come here because the service is really good, the staff is fluently bilingual, and there's no crowding," she said.

"You walk in and on a good night you get served within a couple of hours."

Bill 20 promises relief: Gaétan Barrette

Quebec Health Minister Gaétan Barrette said Quebecers using health services in Ontario is nothing new, especially for residents of border towns.

However, he said it becomes a problem when people are travelling to Ontario from areas like Montreal's West Island and Hudson.

"It's not acceptable," he said.

He pointed to the government's Bill 20 as one remedy for the situation.

The new law sets out a 2017 target for ensuring that 85 per cent of Quebecers have a family doctor.

"We have enough doctors in this province to provide services at the proper time," he said. 

"We do have to ensure that doctors modify their practices so that they are more accessible. That's the very essence of Bill 20."

Quebec's health insurance plan covers out-of-province hospital services, specifically those received during a hospital stay or at an outpatient clinic, including nursing care and diagnostic procedures carried out by a doctor.

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