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Pointe-Saint-Charles community groups petition STM for better access to Verdun Hospital

Pierre Riley, volunteer at the Pointe-Saint-Charles Seniors' Centre, says seniors with reduced mobility like himself can't afford to walk to the hospital from the metro station.  (Rowan Kennedy/CBC - image credit)
Pierre Riley, volunteer at the Pointe-Saint-Charles Seniors' Centre, says seniors with reduced mobility like himself can't afford to walk to the hospital from the metro station. (Rowan Kennedy/CBC - image credit)

Pierre Riley spent nine months being treated for cancer at the Verdun Hospital. The disease and the treatment took a toll on his mobility, and now he walks with a cane.

The 11-minute walk from De l'Église Metro station to the hospital — five-minute walk from LaSalle station — may not seem like much, but Riley says it can be a real obstacle to treatment for seniors with mobility issues.

"It's impossible to come by bus. I cannot walk from the Metro because I have problems walking," said Riley, who volunteers at the Pointe-Saint-Charles Seniors Centre.

The centre, which advocates for the independence and well-being of people aged 50 and over, is one of the community groups in Pointe-Saint-Charles calling for better access to the Verdun Hospital.

They say the hospital isn't accessible by public transit and they launched a petition in February, asking the Société de transport de Montréal (STM) to extend the 71 bus line serving Pointe-Sainte-Charles to bring commuters directly to the hospital's doorstep.

Unable to rely on public transit, Riley says he has spent hundreds of dollars commuting to his treatment.

The taxi round-trip from his home in Pointe-Saint-Charles costs $30, a sizable sum for his means, he says. He used to travel to the hospital twice a month for chemotherapy. Now he returns once a month for tests.

"A lot of elderly people don't have the $30, back and forth, to come here. Most of the elderly, [aged] 65 and older, in Pointe-Saint-Charles, make under $21,000 in income," he said.

"If you come over here once every two weeks or come every month for a chemotherapy session, it's a lot of money."

And while it is possible to reserve a trip with adapted public transport, Riley says it often means arriving a half hour late to appointments and waiting one or two hours after getting treatment.

In a statement, the STM said the request for better service between Pointe-Saint-Charles and Verdun Hospital came up in public consultations in the Verdun, Ville-Marie and Sud-Ouest boroughs and is being considered as part of the STM's plan to redesign the city's bus routes.

Rowan Kennedy/CBC
Rowan Kennedy/CBC

But some in the community are tired of waiting for change.

Maud Marquer shares Riley's concerns.

She is a project manager for seniors, women and mental health at Action-Gardien, a collective of community organizations with the goal of improving living conditions for the people of Pointe-Saint-Charles.

Marquer says easy access to health care is a right, and Pointe-Saint-Charles can't afford to keep waiting for the STM.

"This demand to have direct access to Verdun Hospital is over a decade old," she said.

"What we want are concrete actions, dates, timetables, as quickly as possible. In fact, We can't wait anymore. We shouldn't have to wait for a petition to have this access."

For seniors in the community, public transport is key to their independence and ability to access health-care services, she said.

"We're simply asking for an extension of the bus line to here," she said, referring to the Verdun Hospital.