Under The Tuscan Sun fundraiser on Thursday, May 30

Twenty four years after she joined a local protest march against the Parizeau government’s decision to close the Queen Elizabeth Hospital, Joanne Mastro still considers the local health complex to be “…a work in progress.”

“I first heard about it (the protest) on the radio,” she said. “I was so angry that I decided to tell the neighbors about the demonstration so that we could all let the government know that we wanted to keep our hospital.”

Although the government did close down the hospital, local activists took over the building (with the government’s blessing) after which they created a local community health center that’s still a model for similar health care providers throughout the province. As she is now the new president of the Queen Elizabeth Health Complex and its board of directors, Mastro told The Montrealer that the building “…never lost its vocation,” and that it’s still providing its local community with primary health care in much the same way as it did for generations before the Parizeau administration tried to close it down.

While the community complex continues to offer a wide range of medical services – including cardiology, neurology, ophthalmology, and endocrinology – under one roof, Mastro said that it’s still a not-for-profit ambulatory health care centre that provides on-site medical care for anybody who walks through the door. As the clinic’s success and its easy access to its digital imaging center (X-Ray) and its comprehensive blood-work lab, many believe that the Queen ‘E’ Health Complex was the template former health minister Gaétan Barrette used as a model for his ‘super’ clinics initiative that established nearly 50 similar clinics throughout the province.

“The fact is that we’re still a walk-in clinic where emergency physicians provide primary medical care from 8 o’clock in the morning to 8 o’clock at night every day including Christmas and New Years,” she said. “But now we’re an innovative health care complex made up of an assortment of expert health care professionals who offer a comprehensive range of services, so we’re not doing too bad for what was supposed to be nothing more than a local clinic.”

However, it’s still an old building, and even as the clinic sees over 40 000 people per year, Mastro’s days are filled with meetings with plumbers and roofing specialists who are only too happy to tell her what’s wrong and what has to be done with the building. As the complex is already getting ready to open its new breast health center, Mastro said that she would much rather use some new money to buy specialized breast imaging equipment, “…but fact is that we need a new elevator!”

For the past 20 years, ‘Under the Tuscan Sun’ has been the Queen ‘E’s major fundraising vehicle. While tickets are already being sold for an evening full of food, fun and music for all, Mastro said that she’s also looking forward to the silent auction that’s always been one of the evening’s top attractions.

“It’s always a lot of fun, and you can always call it a good community investment.”

Under The Tuscan Sun will take place at Plaza Centreville (formerly Delta Hotel) at 777 Robert Bourassa on May 30, starting at 6pm; tickets are $175. For more information, call 514-485-5018 or contact www.qehc.org

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