Aqua fitness group decries ‘betrayal’
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.
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.