Bedford community health meeting addresses CHSLD concerns

Bedford community health meeting addresses CHSLD concerns
More than 130 Bedford and area residents met on a warm June 17 evening to discuss health concerns after the recent cancellation of the expansion of the region’s CHSLD (Photo : William Crooks)

By William Crooks

Local Journalism Initiative

A large crowd of over 130 locals gathered at the Bedford Community Centre for a public meeting focusing on local health services, particularly the Centre d’hébergement de soins de longue durée (CHSLD). Organized by the Bedford Health Committee, the meeting June 17 featured local elected officials, health professionals, and concerned citizens. The CIUSSS de l’Estrie-CHUS announced late last week that they will not proceed with the long-planned $15-million expansion of the CHSLD de Bedford.

Pierrette Messier, chair of the Bedford Health Committee, kicked things off at 7 p.m. by welcoming attendees. “We didn’t expect such a large turnout, but we’re very happy to see this level of interest. We have a tight schedule with a lot of information to share and have allotted a significant 20-minute Q&A period at the end,” she stated. She emphasized the evening’s focus on health issues impacting the region’s seniors, particularly within the context of CHSLD services.

Presentation of health statistics and challenges

Marie-Claude Morier, a member of the Bedford Health Committee, presented demographic statistics from the 2021 census. “Our region has a significantly higher percentage of seniors, with 24.95 per cent aged 65 and over, compared to the provincial average. This number is likely even higher now,” she explained.

She also shared findings from a recent news article highlighting the increasing demand for long-term care services across Quebec. “While the provincial average predicts 25 per cent of the population will need long-term care by 2031, our region has already reached this threshold,” she noted.

CHSLD bed reductions and project delays

The crux of the meeting centered on recent announcements regarding bed reductions at the Bedford CHSLD and the indefinite delay of its expansion project. Messier outlined the timeline of these developments, starting with the initial disclosure in early June.

“The adjustment of summer service schedules included a notable reduction from 42 to 30 beds at Bedford CHSLD, a 30 per cent cut compared to smaller reductions elsewhere,” Messier highlighted, prompting questions about the fairness and rationale behind this decision.

The committee had sought clarity from the CIUSSS de l’Estrie, the regional health authority, on several points: Why was Bedford specifically targeted for such significant cuts? Would the beds be restored post-summer? And how would these changes impact the long-awaited expansion project? The community’s frustration was palpable as they viewed these questions have remained largely unanswered.

Community and political advocacy

Messier detailed the committee’s proactive measures, including press releases to local media outlets, presentations to municipal councils, and direct appeals to the CIUSSS board. These efforts aimed to rally public support and seek accountability from health authorities. “Our goal is to maintain and improve the healthcare services we have in Bedford, a fight we’ve been committed to for over a decade,” she affirmed.

CIUSSS representatives’ response

Annie Boisvert, Deputy Director General of CIUSSS de l’Estrie, and Rosane Rivard, Director of Residential Services, attended the meeting to address these concerns directly. Boisvert acknowledged the emotional and critical nature of the issue. “We’re here because, like you, we care deeply about the health of our community. We aim to provide clarity and work together towards solutions,” she began.

Boisvert explained that the decision to reduce beds was based on a new method of calculating demand, introduced in 2023, which prioritized the residents’ or their families’ first choice. “Our data showed that the current number of beds at Bedford CHSLD meets the current demand, with some beds even remaining unoccupied,” she stated. This assessment led to the conclusion that the planned expansion was no longer justified under current needs.

Impact on summer staffing and bed allocation

Rivard elaborated on the staffing challenges exacerbated by the summer vacation period, necessitating the temporary bed reduction. “Currently, we’re short 2-4 personal care attendants daily. This, coupled with agency staff unavailability during summer, means we must adjust our operations to ensure safety and service quality,” she explained. Rivard reassured attendees that no residents would be relocated; the reduction would occur naturally as beds became vacant.

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