Proposed location for new Outaouais hospital causing concerns

A downtown site in Gatineau, Que., has been ruled out by the Quebec government as the future location for a new hospital in the Outaouais, much to the chagrin of some local communities.

Traffic, accessibility flagged as potential problems with site in Gatineau's north end

The Réno-Dépôt site in central Gatineau, Que., won't the be site of a new hospital in the Outaouais, according to government sources. (CBC)

A downtown site in Gatineau, Que., has been ruled out by the Quebec government as the future location for a new hospital in the Outaouais, much to the chagrin of some local communities.

Now that the Réno-Dépôt site on Boulevard de la Carrière is off the table, government sources tell Radio-Canada the province wants the new hospital on Boulevard de la Technologie in the city's north end, along Highway 5.

Orée-du-Parc Coun. Isabelle N. Miron, who represents that area, says building a hospital in the quiet Hautes-Plaines neighbourhood is not ideal.

"I have concerns about this project. I'm not sure it's the right place to put such a big project," said Miron.

"People [have] already started to call me. They're worried about what's going to happen ... We were supposed to have a bicycle path between Chelsea and Gatineau exactly at the same place. So I have many questions at this time."

Isabelle N. Miron, councillor for Orée-du-Parc, says her area is already dealing with traffic from new property developments in nearby Chelsea, Que. (CBC)

The municipality of Chelsea, Que., is also concerned about the environmental impacts of development in the semi-rural area, and worries the location — only a few hundred meters south of its boundary — would generate significant traffic.

The town's council has adopted a resolution asking the Quebec government to prioritize downtown Gatineau as the location. 

'A huge mistake'

Over the past few months, many have advocated for the future hospital, affiliated with the Université du Quebec en Outaouais, to be located downtown — including Gatineau city council and its mayor, France Bélisle. 

The city is already a leader in urban sprawl, said Stéphane Bisson, president of the Gatineau Chamber of Commerce.

Bisson said if the province chooses the Hautes-Plains location, it would miss out on an opportunity to achieve its own objectives of encouraging active transportation and locating services closer to people.

"Establishing the hospital where the government wants, I think it's a huge mistake," said Bisson. "[It would be a] huge mistake because all the services are currently available in the downtown core of Gatineau."

Government sources have told Radio-Canada that this site off Highway 5 in northwest Gatineau, Que., is where the province wants to build a new hospital for the Outaouais. (Radio-Canada)

Bisson also estimates it would cost hundreds of millions of dollars to build and maintain infrastructure at the Hautes-Plaines location.

"We don't have any sufficient public transport. We don't have any sufficient roads in order to service an establishment that will have thousands of people [commuting there] every day," he said.

"Hopefully the government will hear the message. And if they don't hear the message, then [we will] advocate."

Accessibility, environmental worries

The location has not been finalized, and it's possible the Quebec government could change its mind.

The proposed location is a 12-minute drive from the city centre, but by public transit it would take a minimum of 45 minutes with the current transit schedule. 

"I'm very disappointed," said Lucerne Coun. Gilles Chagnon, who wanted the hospital built near the growing Aylmer sector west of downtown.

 "We were looking at probably 85,000 or more citizens by the year 2031, which means we'll be even bigger than Hull. And right now, what's proposed on the table is that the location of this new regional hospital will be even further out."

The hospital should be located closer to downtown where it can more easily be reached by transit, says Gatineau Chamber of Commerce president Stéphane Bisson. (Francis Ferland/CBC)

Chagnon said he wonders how thousands of employees will get to the hospital and worries about the traffic and pollution that will cause, along with the cost of building the necessary infrastructure. 

The offices of both Quebec Health Minister Christian Dubé and Mathieu Lacombe, minister responsible for the Outaouais region, said they would answer all questions when the hospital is officially announced in a few weeks.

Neither office gave a date for that announcement.


Krystalle Ramlakhan is a multi-platform journalist with CBC Ottawa. She has also worked for CBC in P.E.I., Winnipeg and Iqaluit.

With files from Radio-Canada's Marielle Guimond and Emmanuelle Poisson