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An oncologist leaves Rouyn-Noranda, opposition deputies react

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The regional radio-oncology center gradually opened its doors in 2022. (Archive photo)

  • Lise Millette (View profile )Lise Millette

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The announcement of the departure of one of the two oncologists residing in Abitibi-Témiscamingue provoked strong reactions from the opposition parties in the National Assembly. They are urging the government to intervene, while the region's Integrated Health and Social Services Center assures that services are not in danger.

Hemato-oncologist Samer Tabchi informed patients of his departure from Rouyn-Noranda.

In a publication on the X network, the official opposition health spokesperson, André Fortin, wrote: Treating cancer is much easier in his region. Having to go to Montreal or Gatineau again would be a nightmare for patients in the region. He urges the Minister of Health, Christian Dubé, to intervene.

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The MP for Pontiac and Liberal health critic, André Fortin, asks Minister Dubé to intervene. (Archive photo)

The member for Îles-de-la-Madeleine and spokesperson for the Parti québécois en santé, Joël Arseneau, also reacted.

That oncological services are gradually disappearing in a region like Abitibi-Témiscamingue is unacceptable in terms of both health and the vitality of the territory. A question of fairness too, said Mr. Arseneau.

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As for Québec solidaire, co-spokesperson Émilise Lessard-Therrien, former member of Parliament for Rouyn-Noranda-Témiscamingue, maintains that this is extremely insecure news for the people of Abitibi-Témiscamingue who are currently living with a cancer diagnosis. We expect to have access to health care in our area. We are condemned to resolve the air quality problem in Rouyn-Noranda. The damage is too great for the population.

The minister responsible for Abitibi-Témiscamingue, Jean Boulet, said he was sensitive to the oncologist's departure.

It’s certain that I will communicate with the people concerned to see what we can do, either to replace it or see what the best alternative is.

A quote from Jean Boulet, minister responsible for Abitibi-Témiscamingue

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The minister responsible for Abitibi-Témiscamingue, Jean Boulet, says he is sensitive to the situation. (Archive photo)

The Integrated Health and Social Services Center (CISSS) of Abitibi-Témiscamingue reiterates that recruitment efforts are continue to maintain services in the region.

The organization is responsible for ensuring that the offer and organization of hematology-oncology services deployed in the region or in partnership with other establishments meet the needs of the population. From cancer screening to treatment interventions, surgical interventions and follow-ups, mentions Dr. François Aumond, director of professional services, university teaching and clinical relevance, in a press release.

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Before opening the Regional Radiation Oncology Center, the CISSS-AT was already facing a severe shortage of staff. (Archive photo)

The CISSS-AT indicates that it has four positions for doctors specializing in hematology-oncology and that two of these positions are currently filled , but one of the doctors announced his intention to eventually leave the region, without resigning from his position.

The communications department adds collaboration with the hemato-oncology team at Sacré-Cœur Hospital of Montreal to compensate for vacant positions.

For its part, the CIUSSS du Nord-de-l'île-de-Montréal emphasizes that it has been deploying doctors in Abitibi-Témiscamingue for several years already.

“Before the arrival of a team in Rouyn-Noranda in 2022, our CIUSSS provided coverage. A team of three hemato-oncologists has always continued to travel to Val-d'Or every two or three weeks. We are also temporarily resuming coverage in Rouyn-Noranda,” said Clara Meagher, spokesperson for the CIUSSS du Nord-de-l'île-de-Montréal, in writing.

For his part, Dr. Normand Blais, president of the Association of Hematologists and Oncologists of Quebec, points out that it is not only in Abitibi-Témiscamingue where the lack of oncologists is evident.

In the entire province, there is a shortfall: 31 hematologists and medical oncologists. So, what if we took a tour of every hospital in Quebec which is lacking everywhere. So, it is certain that, for today, Abitibi-Témiscamingue is in a greater shortage, but if we move resources to fill that, you will have problems elsewhere, he argued.

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The regional radio-oncology center, in Rouyn-Noranda . (Archive photo)

For its part, the office of the Minister of Health, Christian Dubé, says it understands the concerns of the citizens of Rouyn-Noranda and affirms that access to care is the main priority of the Health Plan, particularly services in the regions.

We will collaborate with stakeholders in the region, on-site managers and network partners to ensure the continuity of quality services, this is essential, affirms Minister Dubé's office in a written statement.

At the same time, over the last few months, we have determined the necessary changes to ensure improved care by specialists while respecting the reality of each region. This is particularly what led us to the agreement in principle concluded with the FMSQ last November concerning Special Medical Activities (AMP), we add.

Christian Dubé's office reports that discussions are underway to determine the ways in which this agreement could take shape according to each specialty. “The coverage of services in the region is particularly part of the discussions. The place of the regions is essential in decision-making and, with the new law 15, we will have even stronger local management,” he argues.

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