Closing the Gilman Residence in Montreal: an absurd decision by the Health Agency


    MONTREAL, July 15 /CNW Telbec/ - The Syndicat des travailleuses et
travailleurs de Mab-Mackay (CSN), the Fédération de la santé et des services
sociaux (FSSS-CSN) and the Conseil central du Montréal Métropolitain
(CCMM-CSN) all oppose the closing of the Gilman Residence for blind or
visually impaired seniors, a decision announced on June 16, 2009 by the Agence
de la santé et des services sociaux de Montréal. They demand that the decision
be reversed and call for activities at the residence to be continued.
    This public long-term care residential centre (or CHSLD), now merged with
the MAB-Mackay Rehabilitation Centre, is slated to be closed in March 2010.
The closing is part of the move to close 2,200 long-term care beds in the
region, a decision made by the Agency more than a year ago under the aegis of
the Health and Social Services Ministry.
    Built in 1968, the Gilman Residence had up to sixty residents until
recently. Although management closed admissions in the fall of 2008, there are
still 29 seniors living there. The Residence offers services that are
completely adapted to the needs of this clientele with reduced visual
autonomy.

    A futile, arbitrary decision

    The reason given by the Agency for ceasing the Residence's activities is
that its mission of residential and long-term care no longer corresponded to
the MAB-Mackay centre's rehabilitation mission. So the Residence will be
closed for good and residents transferred to private residential resources.
    "It's unacceptable!" protested Francine Lévesque, president of the
FSSS-CSN. "For more than 40 years, the residence has provided qualified staff,
adapted facilities and the necessary equipment. Now the Agency has decided to
close it and relocate vulnerable seniors, sending them to the private sector.
They have just been deprived of the only guarantee they have of access to the
same care and services at all times, with qualified staff and standards for
the quality of care and services. The Agency simply must change its decision."

    The Montreal Agency's priority must be to revise its plan

    By 2010, residents are to be transferred to a private residence to be
built in the west end of the city, where some 30 spaces are reserved for them.
When asked last June about the future of services offered to this special
clientele, Agency management was unable to provide any assessment of the new
residence's ability to meet needs as specific as those now met by the Gilman
Residence.
    "Closing this residence is a good illustration of how the Health Agency's
plan, aimed at reducing the number of spaces in public residential care by
2,200 at a time when the population is aging, is arbitrary and ill-adapted to
real needs. Not to mention the fact that the plan will mean shunting around
more than a thousand elderly people, with all the human and social costs that
this entails. There is an urgent need for a public debate, now, on the future
of care and services for seniors with declining autonomy," added Francine
Lévesque.
    The CSN recently made suggestions about various potential solutions in a
document entitled Vieillir dans la dignité : plateforme de revendications pour
une vision sociale et positive du vieillissement (Aging with dignity: platform
of demands for a positive social vision of aging). These include better access
to public long-term care, an obligation to provide quality services, the
development of genuine "living environments," better home-care services and
more support for the elderly in general.

    Save the Gilman Residence!

    Workers in the union affiliated with the FSSS-CSN are not giving up. At a
general membership meeting on June 23, they rejected the decision to close the
residence. "We will fight to the end to reverse this decision, which will
penalize both residents and the sixty or so workers who have years of
experience at the Gilman Residence," said Louise Ouellette, president of their
union, the Syndicat des travailleuses et travailleurs de Mab-Mackay.
    Besides the BBQ held today in front of the residence, various actions are
planned to mobilize opposition and raise the awareness of the general public
as well as regional and national authorities. "We will do everything we can to
force the Health Agency to assume its public responsibilities," said Véronique
De Sève, vice-president of the CSSMM-CSN.

    The FSSS-CSN is the most representative organization in health care and
social services in Québec, with 125,000 members. The CCMM-CSN represents
75,000 union members in all the public and private sectors of work in the
Montréal-Laval area. Both are affiliated with the Confédération des syndicats
nationaux, which has more than 300,000 members.



For further information: Francois Forget, information staff
representative, FSSS-CSN, (514) 949-1430; Source: Fédération de la santé et
des services sociaux (FSSS-CSN) and Conseil central du Montréal Métropolitain
(CCMM-CSN)