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MUHC pledges to beef up Lachine Hospital services, reopen the ER

The Lachine Hospital will become a more robust community hospital, the McGill University Health Centre (MUHC) announced early Wednesday afternoon, with a fully functioning emergency room and more inpatient beds.

The decision comes a day after the National Assembly voted unanimously on a resolution stating the hospital's status should be upheld, and specialized services should be offered to the population.

The ER "will gradually reopen over the next few months to finally be able to receive walk-in patients and ambulances 24 hours a day, seven days a week," said the MUHC in a press release.

The Intensive Care Unit, however, will remain closed. The MUHC's rationale is that since the hospital is located a few kilometres from other hospitals with ICUs, patients can continue to be transferred to those institutions as they have been for more than a year.

The emergency room has repeatedly been closed overnight -- and the intensive care unit has been closed for years -- because of problems retaining essential staff.

There will be improvements made to the current 36-bed inpatient unit. Over the next 12 to 18 months it will be enlarged by 20 beds as additional staff, including family doctors, are recruited.

"This is excellent news and we’re still part of the MUHC family," Dr. Paul Saba told CTV News as he stood in front of the hospital shortly after he got word.

Saba, a family doctor there who has championed the community hospital for decades, is still unhappy that the intensive care unit will remain closed.

"It doesn’t have to be a full-service ICU like downtown, but even like a step-down unit where patients can be observed, taken care of and followed," he said.


Dr. Lucie Opatrny, the president and executive director of the MUHC, told CTV News the intention is to work on a project that is sustainable and long-term.

To help coordinate activities within the institution, Opatrny explained they will be naming an on-site manager in the coming days, "so that the decisions can be made locally and can be made quickly."

A $220-million modernization project at the hospital is expected to continue and the MUHC pledged to continue to develop the surgery, imaging and specialized medicine departments.

The MUHC's reversal came about after discussions with many stakeholders, it said, including with Quebec's health minister, Christian Dubé.

When asked about the decision, Opatrny characterized it as more of an evolution than a reversal.

"I really wouldn't say it's a 180. I think we have to see that Lachine has been in a fragile state as a small community hospital for more than 15 years and so it was important to take the time to say how and where are we going to rebuild," she said.

Activists, including the Committee to Save Lachine Hospital, citizens, and health-care workers have been fighting alongside Saba for all those years to reopen and maintain an array of services at the community health facility and went as a delegation to the legislature on Tuesday.

The Liberal MNA for Marquette, Enrico Ciccone, filed a petition in the National Assembly on Tuesday with 4,570 signatures supporting the establishment.

During question period that same day, Dubé said he had confidence in the managers on the ground to find a solution "and respect the essential role of the Lachine Hospital."

With files from CTV's Christine Long and Rob Lurie Top Stories

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