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Patients seek to sue Quebec over alleged mistreatment in long-term care facilities

The action targets about two dozen long-term care facilities across the province.
The action targets about two dozen long-term care facilities across the province. Getty Images

Allegations of patients being forced to unnecessarily wear diapers, a lack of air conditioning and not being offered basic items such as shampoo, soap and toothpaste, form part of a class-action lawsuit against Quebec long-term care facilities.

A patients’ rights group, the Conseil pour la protection des Malades, held a news conference Tuesday to announce that it is seeking authorization to file the lawsuit that targets 22 provincially administered facilities.

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It alleges that cuts to the Quebec health network since 2015 have led to a deterioration in the level of care and service provided to patients in the facilities.

Court documents allege that a number of long-term centres oblige residents to pay for medication and laundry services that should be included in the residents’ fees.

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The documents also allege that a number of residents and family members have to pay staff under the table to get residents’ diapers changed.

Lead plaintiff Daniel Pilote, a resident at a long-term centre in nearby Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu, Que., said he’s been the victim of mistreatment and wants to use the courts to improve conditions and obtain justice for himself and others.

“I find it inconceivable that I’ve been mistreated for the past two years,” he told reporters.

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Pilote, 56, who is paralyzed from the neck down, has been living in the facility since 2014 after being diagnosed with muscular dystrophy.

Conseil spokesman Paul Brunet said that in a majority of the facilities, administration offices are air-conditioned, but that’s not the case for the patients’ rooms.

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“What I’ve heard is that people who have the means to pay $250 or $300 for three months will be supplied air conditioning and those who can’t end up in a cafeteria or a place where there’s air conditioning,” he said.

“You should not have to be suffocate in a 34-degree room in a long-term facility.”

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The advocacy group said it believes that thousands of the 37,000 people residing in the facilities have suffered undignified conditions, including being forced to defecate in their diapers.

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Brunet added that the patients’ basic constitutional rights to security and dignity have also been violated.

Lawyer Philippe Larochelle said in the court documents that the amounts being sought for each person vary from $250 to $750 for every month they have been in residence.

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But Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard said Tuesday that the majority of long-term facilities provide quality services.

“We are continually working to make improvements,” he told reporters.

“But if there are unacceptable actions that are being carried out, we should all condemn them.”

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Couillard noted that $6 billion has been invested in public health since 2014 and a large part of that was for home-care and long-term care.

He said he wouldn’t comment further because the matter is before the courts.