New Gatineau hospital site announced, expected to open in 2034

The latest site for a new hospital in Gatineau, Que., is a federal government complex northwest of the city core.

On Thursday morning, the federal government announced it will transfer the Asticou Centre to the Quebec government and the National Capital Commission (NCC) for the new hospital.

"Today is the start of an important journey that will lead to the construction of a much-needed, brand new hospital," said Public Services and Procurement Minister Jean-Yves Duclos at a news conference Thursday morning.

The Coalition Avenir Québec promised western Quebec a new hospital during its successful 2018 election campaign.

The province wanted to build on boulevard de la Technologie in the city's north end, then pivoted in 2022 to an industrial park in the city's Hull sector.

The Asticou Centre at 241 blvd. Cité des Jeunes was on a list of properties the federal government was considering for sale or transfer.

While there has been criticism the site isn't located closer to the downtown core, Mathieu Lacombe, the MNA for Papineau and minister responsible for the Outaouais region, told reporters the site is close to a local Cégep.

"We could create a training centre to find people to work in this hospital," he said in French.

The Asticou Centre sits on 26 hectares, of which 17.2 hectares will be transferred to the province by December 2025. It's unclear how much the province is paying for the land.

The remaining 8.9 hectares will be transferred to the NCC to be turned into green space.

It's hoped the 600-bed hospital will open by 2034, later than the original target of 2032. That timeline doesn't sit well with everyone, however.

Karine D'Auteuil is president of the Syndicat des professionnelles en soins de l'Outaouais (SPSO), a local nurses union.
Karine D'Auteuil is president of the Syndicat des professionnelles en soins de l'Outaouais (SPSO), a local nurses union. (Radio-Canada)

"The population is growing. It's getting older," Karine D'Auteuil, president of the Syndicat des professionnelles en soins de l'Outaouais (SPSO), a union representing local nurses, said in French.

"The new infrastructure is attractive in the long term, but we also need short and medium term solutions."

The Outaouais has also been dealing with staffing shortages that have strained its health-care system.

Thursday's announcement also included a high-volume medical clinic on rue Crémazie in downtown Gatineau. That facility will house a number of services, including a vaccination centre and lab, and is expected to open in 2026.

Province changed course

Two years ago, the province cancelled a plan to build the hospital on Gatineau's outskirts after intense pushback from the public. The Asticou site is closer to the city's core.

"We redid a very thorough analysis of all the available sites," Quebec Health Minister Christian Dubé told reporters Thursday.

He said the federal government has been accommodating by offering up the new site.

"I think today we're very, very pleased with that because it didn't take years to do. It took months."

Conférence du ministre de la Santé du Québec, Christian Dubé. Devant la Chambre de commerce de Montréal Métropolitain Photo prise au Palais de Congrès à Montréal, Québec. Sur la photo: (Gauche à droite) Christian Dubé 2024/06/13 Le 13 Juin 2024
Quebec Health Minister Christian Dubé said the new site is the best option available. (Ivanoh Demers/Radio-Canada)

Concerns about the new location remain, however: It's far from Gatineau's downtown core, is currently underserved by public transit, and road access is limited.

"Despite the fact that Asticou is less out of the way than some other potential sites, let's be clear, it is not an optimal site," Nathalie Prud'homme, president of urban planning group L'Ordre des urbanistes du Québec, told Radio-Canada in French.

"Placing a major regional infrastructure so far from existing services and more densely populated living environments constitutes a missed opportunity to contribute to the revitalization of the city centre."