Quebec must rethink how it treats seniors, says coroner after damning report

Quebec’s vulnerable seniors in long-term care were in the government’s blind spot as COVID-19 spread across the province and ravaged already short-staffed residences in the spring of 2020, coroner Géhane Kamel said Thursday. to journalists.

“I say this because I believe that they are also in the blind spot of our society, and I sincerely hope that my work will contribute to better protection for seniors and vulnerable people in group living environments,” said said Kamel at a press conference to present the findings of his 200-page report.

Kamel’s report, released on Monday, follows months of investigation into deaths in seniors’ residences. More than 5,000 Quebecers living in institutions died in the first months of the pandemic, in the spring of 2020.

The coroner said the government should take a final look at what happened in that first wave. The official opposition and some families have called for a more thorough public inquiry, although Kamel said she would leave it to the government to decide how to re-examine the events.

The coroner and his team, Dr Jacques Ramsay and attorney Dave Kimpton, heard testimony from 220 government officials, long-term care home workers and relatives of some of those who died.

Kamel issued 23 recommendations targeting the provincial government, its Ministry of Health, local health authorities and the College of Physicians of Quebec.

She called on the province to find ways for its health care system to respond more quickly to crises like a pandemic or natural disaster. She pointed to the decision-making hierarchy, noting that the current structure leaves too much distance between ministry bureaucrats who issue directives and people working on the ground.

Kamel recommended that the role of Quebec’s director of public health be made more independent, that the province improve nurse-to-patient ratios in long-term care, and that local health boards and long-term care home administrators be made more responsible.

“At Herron, people have failed”

Kamel examined the deaths of 53 seniors in community living, 47 of whom had lived at CHSLD Herron in Dorval.

The situation at Herron, already in severe staff shortage in March 2020, quickly became a crisis as COVID-19 arrived in Quebec and spread. Staff struggled to provide residents with even the most basic care.

“At Herron, people have failed,” Kamel said Thursday, “whether it’s the owners, the board of health, or the ministry. It’s clear to me. I wrote it down in black and white.”

The day after the publication of Kamel’s report, the head of the CIUSSS de l’Ouest-de-l’Île-de-Montréal, the local health authority that oversaw Herron and took control of the establishment on March 29 2020, resigned. Lynne McVey will not seek another term once hers expires in July.