Aqua fit­ness group de­cries ‘be­trayal’

The Glengarry News - - Front Page - BY RICHARD MAHONEY News Staff

A group of cit­i­zens is mak­ing waves as Hôpi­tal Glen­garry Me­mo­rial Hos­pi­tal of­fi­cials strug­gle to re­vive the pop­u­lar aqua fit­ness pro­gram at the Alexan­dria in­sti­tu­tion.

“We want all to be aware of our frus­tra­tion, an­noy­ance, dis­ap­point­ment, be­trayal and the dis­re­spect that you have shown us,” reads a let­ter some of the ap­prox­i­mately 60 aqua fit­ness par­tic­i­pants have sent to the HGMH’s board of di­rec­tors.

The clients say their health is be­ing com­pro­mised be­cause the pop­u­lar aqua fit­ness pro­gram has been sus­pended.

Ses­sions have been placed on hold since April 6, when Danielle Ma­cLeod re­signed after ten years as man­ager of the ther­a­peu­tic pool.

Ses­sions will re­sume “the minute we have a per­son able and will­ing to do the job,” pledges HGMH chief ex­ec­u­tive of­fi­cer Michael Co­hen. He hopes a new man­ager can be found by the end of April.

“We don’t know of a huge num­ber of ap­pli­cants lo­cally,” he says. After re­ceiv­ing for­mal no­tice from Ms. Ma­cLeod about seven weeks ago that she was leav­ing, the HGMH had “ex­plored a num­ber of op­por­tu­ni­ties” that even­tu­ally “bore no fruit,” the CEO re­lates.

The hos­pi­tal re­mains com­mit­ted to the aqua fit­ness pro­gram, he stresses. Swim­ming lessons will con­tinue to be of­fered as usual.

But reg­u­lar aqua fit­ness clients com­plain they are be­ing de­prived of a valu­able ser­vice be­cause of the hos­pi­tal’s slow re­sponse to the va­cancy.

“We feel that by not us­ing the am­ple time ef­fec­tively that Danielle re­spect­fully al­lot­ted you and her classes to find a qual­i­fied in­struc­tor you have shown dis­re­spect to all,” the clients write in their let­ter to the board.

Although Ms. Ma­cLeod told a class March 18 she was leav­ing April 6, the hos­pi­tal knew of her im­pend­ing de­par­ture back in Jan­uary, says Carmel MacDonell.

The Brown House res­i­dent and Joan and Leonard Si­wik, of Green­field, ap­proached The

News to ex­press their dis­ap­point­ment that the hos­pi­tal has moved too slowly on the is­sue.

“The feel­ing is that the ad­min­is­tra­tion did not take this sit­u­a­tion se­ri­ously,” says Mrs.

MacDonell. “We don’t want to be mis­er­able, but we want to raise aware­ness,” com­ments Mrs. Si­wik, who has been fol­low­ing aqua fit­ness since the ses­sions first be­gan in 2001. “We are very con­cerned about this. We want it fixed as soon as pos­si­ble.”

She and her hus­band gladly pay the $750 an­nual fee. “I go two to three times a week,” says Mrs. Si­wik, who like many oth­ers, sings the praises of the only ther­a­peu­tic pool in the area.

“With wa­ter tem­per­a­tures rang­ing be­tween 88 and 90 de­grees F, the tem­per­a­ture is ideal for pre/post re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion, aqua fit­ness, fam­ily, baby and adult swims, and swim­ming lessons,” the hos­pi­tal says on its web page.

While they can drive to pools in Hawkes­bury and Corn­wall, the clients note that those are not ther­a­peu­tic fa­cil­i­ties.

Mr. Si­wik ob­serves that from a strictly fi­nan­cial view­point, the hos­pi­tal pool is a sound in­vest­ment.

“As tax­pay­ers, we pay for the hos­pi­tal. And we also pay user fees and park­ing,” he points out.

Sound in­vest­ment

While he ac­knowl­edges the pool rep­re­sents a large ex­pense, “It is a lot cheaper for me to be ex­er­cis­ing in the pool than ly­ing in a hos­pi­tal bed.”

Peo­ple are al­ways will­ing to do­nate to the HGMH, notes Mr. Si­wik. “But the hos­pi­tal has to sup­port us in re­turn,” he adds.

Mrs. MacDonell re­calls that in March Ms. Ma­cLeod had un­der­scored the im­por­tance of a “seam­less tran­si­tion” be­tween her and her suc­ces­sor. But she and the aqua fit­ness par­tic­i­pants had been kept in the dark about any progress on find­ing a re­place­ment.

While the hos­pi­tal had as­sured that the pool would not close, in an ad pub­lished in the March 27 edi­tion of The News, the HGMH an­nounced that aqua fit­ness ses­sions would be post­poned un­til a new man­ager had been hired.

“We feel that the ef­fort we have put into our fit­ness has not been given proper pri­or­ity and we feel be­trayed by both ad­min­is­tra­tion and you the hos­pi­tal board,” the let­ter reads. About 60 peo­ple rang­ing in age from 40 to 100 par­tic­i­pate in the aqua fit­ness pro­gram.


HIGH SCHOOL DRAMA: Grade 12 Le Re­lais stu­dent Sim­mon Tousig­nant as Martin Bé­dard shines in the lead role of Michel Ouel­lette's La guerre au ven­tre. The fi­nal per­for­mance of the play is tomorrow night, April 18, at 7:30 at L'École sec­ondaire catholique Le Re­lais in Alexan­dria. De­tails in­side.

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