• Carmen Marie Fabio

Questions remain following doctors’ departure from the VSPCR


PHOTO BY CARMEN MARIE FABIO

Located in Hudson, the Vaudreuil-Soulanges Palliative Care Residence currently has eight of its 12 beds occupied following operational changes due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the departure of five of its doctors.

Though the departure of five doctors from the Vaudreuil-Soulanges Palliative Care Residence (VSPCR) happened three months ago, the issue is being brought to the surface once again following another letter submitted to The Journal signed by the group which claimed in an August 11 email that the doctors were, “…ousted without warning and without reasons by a newly appointed management.” The letter went on to describe the VSPCR as becoming a “shadow of its former self” given the reduction in medical staff and expressing concern about, “…the repercussions of this medical vacuum on the continuity of palliative care in the region of VS.” It concludes by suggesting the residence be placed under a level of governmental supervision.

Series of emails

The original anonymous email was sent through an encrypted service provider but a subsequent email received Monday, August 24 was signed by the five doctors – Dr. Sylvie Dufresne, Dr. Andreea Iancu, Dr. Aida Pop, Dr. Annick Terret-Hans, and Dr. Sarah Verger-Demers.

“There was absolutely no reason given,” said Dr. Sylvie Dufresne who was one of the original founders and was asked to leave her position in May. “This is an institution paid for, in part, with public funds and we want the community of Vaudreuil-Soulanges to know.”

Dr. Dufresne said her dismissal happened so quickly she had no time to say her goodbyes to the patients or the staff or offer a thank you to the population. In an interview with The Journal August 26, she maintains she has no idea why she was terminated.

Response from the VSPCR

VSPCR Executive Director Christine Boyle released an official statement August 25 in response to the doctors’ allegations that reads, in part, “Questions have been raised lately about the departure of some staff members at the Vaudreuil-Soulanges Palliative Care Residence. In order to rectify the facts, the Residence wishes to make the following statement:

The Residence’s mission is to provide a calm and peaceful environment for patients at the end of life, and their families. We have been working with professionalism and rigour to offer the highest standards of palliative care for our community for almost 10 years. This requires a positive work environment for all staff.

To this end, certain elements affecting the work climate were brought to our attention, which triggered in-depth reflection on the part of the Residence and its Board of Directors. As a result, following discussions and consultations with certain professionals, the Board of Directors made a difficult human resources decision for the benefit of our staff as well as our patients. It is important to note that the decision concerned only one member of the team, the other departures being voluntary.”

When asked why Dr. Dufresne was asked to leave, Boyle declined to give the reason.

Dufresne asserts there’s no truth to the statement that the other four doctors left voluntarily. “There’s no way they would abandon a ship that was functioning so well.” She added that further fall-out from the group departure means Université de Montréal’s medical students are not being offered their traditional stagière positions at the facility this year.

Second opinion

“Dr. Dufresne was fired with no reason given to us,” said Dr. Terret-Hans, one of the five who signed the letter. “We tried to pursue it but they (VSPCR administration) changed the agreement between the CISSSMO (Centre intégré de santé et de services sociaux de la Montérégie-Ouest) so that we were automatically fired. They can't deny that.” The entente allowed the doctors to work in the residence to provide continuity in treatment for palliative care patients. She reiterated that the doctors' letter was to let the population know that services are not the same at the residence, disagreeing with the idea that the COVID-19 pandemic has played a role in the lower occupancy rate.

“There were lots of other changes during COVID which is not the best time to make changes,” said Terret-Hans. “For us, it's a sad story because we were really involved and we just want the best service for the population.” Both Dr. Dufresne and Dr. Terret-Hans continue to work in the field of end-of-life care.

History