Climate crisis and population health: apples, oranges, bananas?

One more or less parking lot. A natural tarmac environment. A waterproofed floor. Are we just one heat island away in an environmental context that is visibly deteriorating and in which human health is at risk?

Let us now agree on the following fact: a hospital is an establishment where patients receive quality health care, provided by staff from many professions in the hospital environment, working in the best possible conditions. Or, at the very least, that’s what would be desired in the best of all possible worlds.

However, in September 2023, our government authorized the construction of a surface parking lot with 1,869 spaces in the new Vaudreuil-Soulanges hospital project, the equivalent of five football fields, where a park and gardens could coexist. communities and spaces dedicated to biodiversity. The initial project proposed staggered parking in order to limit the impact on the environment, thus favoring densification rather than sprawl.

How can we justify in 2024 the construction of a large concrete surface, thus creating a heat island, in addition to destroying a large area of ​​natural vegetation? Is this compatible with the mission of a hospital?

Let’s see together the result of this government recipe. First, Vaudreuil-Dorion, where the new hospital will be built, is part of the municipality of Vaudreuil-Soulanges. This city is largely bordered by Lac des Deux Montagnes and the Ottawa River, which makes it prone to repeated flooding. Every square inch of soil that is waterproofed increases this vulnerability, in addition to the very high costs for the city and its population each time an overflow occurs. The city is also investing in the adaptation of its banks, in addition to implementing various preventive measures, including the protection of natural environments allowing the absorption of rainwater.

Next, let’s talk about the impacts of creating the perfect heat island, such as a large parking lot. Let us remind the Quebec government that each four or five day heat wave costs it $55 million in health care1. This amount does not take into consideration the human cost in loss of life and health problems. Imagining the presence of a heat island contiguous to a health establishment in these circumstances seems to us inconceivable, even illogical.

In addition, the future hospital will be built at the intersection of Highway 30, and near Highway 40. However, we know that the majority of GHGs are emitted by road transport, and that “atmospheric pollution is responsible for a third of cardiovascular diseases in Quebec, or 3,800 premature deaths per year”2. We also know that pulmonary and cardiovascular diseases cost the province approximately $30 billion annually.3. It seems essential to us to protect workers, as well as hospital patients, from atmospheric pollutants by surrounding it with green spaces that can ensure the capture of part of the GHGs present in the environment.

So, Mr. Legault, here is a good example where cuts in investment in order to save a little money (apples, you might say), the destruction of a natural environment (oranges, you might think) , near a health establishment (bananas, according to you), lead to the beautiful fruit salad that follows: the continuation of the climate and biodiversity crises, coupled with significant impacts on the health of the population and costs which are connected to it. Elements, as you will see, which are inseparable, independently of the fruit from which they come.

The citizens of Quebec that you represent need a responsible government that truly cares about their health and their environment.

We ask you to return to the initial proposal, that of building a parking lot for the new Vaudreuil-Soulanges hospital, in order to meet the fundamental needs of the Quebec population that it is your responsibility to protect.

1. Taken from the text by Charles D’Amboise published on August 4, 2018 on Radio-Canada.

2. Taken from a Mothers at the Front podcast. This is a meeting between journalist Catherine-Ève ​​Gadoury and Johanne Elsener from Québec Arbres.

3. Taken from the AQME Reference Framework for Healthy Air

*Co-signatories: Guy Pilon, mayor of Vaudreuil-Dorion; Marie-Claude Nichols, provincial deputy for Vaudreuil; Patricia Clermont, Quebec Association of Physicians for the Environment (AQME)

*See the full list of co-signers

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