Coronavirus: Trudeau says military may be used to help Quebec’s long-term care facilities

Coronavirus outbreak: What is Trudeau doing to help provinces address crisis at long-term care facilities?
Speaking outside Rideau Cottage in Ottawa on Thursday morning, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was asked by Global's Janet Silver what measures Trudeau would be taking to help the provinces address the crisis of COVID-19 at Canada's long-term care facilities.

Quebec has requested assistance from the federal government amid the novel coronavirus pandemic, according to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

Trudeau said the government specifically asked for medical personnel for help as hard-hit nursing homes face staffing shortages and outbreaks in what he described as an “unprecedented request.”

READ MORE: Canadian Rangers in northern Quebec to help locals with coronavirus fight

He said the two governments are working on a response, which could involve the Canadian Red Cross, military or volunteers. The prime minister noted that military help for provinces usually focuses around things like floods and forest fires.

“We are examining the best way to help Quebec in these difficult times,” said Trudeau.

The federal government is still finalizing its plan in order to best help the province, where the number of COVID-19 cases continues to climb. Trudeau said he will be able to offer more details later on.

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“We have received three requests in total from Quebec, two for Canadian Rangers to help out in northern and remote areas both in Nunavik and Bas Saint-Laurent,” said Trudeau.

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“This most recent request around help in long-term care facilities is somewhat different than the kinds of requests that the federal government usually gets around support for provinces, which is much more often around things like floods and forest fires, but we are, of course, working to help.”

READ MORE: Quebec premier pleads for doctors to help nursing homes ravaged by coronavirus

Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland described it as an “urgent situation” and said that the federal government is committed to supporting Quebec.

“In terms of the precise tasks that the government of Canada personnel can do and the precise numbers, that is something that is being discussed as we speak,” she said.

A senior military official told Global News that while Quebec has asked for help, a formal request has not yet come from the federal government to the military.

The military official added this situation is unprecedented, and a course of action depends on Quebec clarifying what capacity they are seeking military support in.

Coronavirus outbreak: Quebec premier appeals for help in nursing homes as death toll rises
Coronavirus outbreak: Quebec premier appeals for help in nursing homes as death toll rises

Quebec Premier François Legault said on Thursday that he is open to having “qualified personnel” from the Canadian Forces help in affected nursing homes, but he is awaiting details.

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“What we asked the federal government was to have army employees who are qualified in health care,” he said.

“There, it is not clear how many there are. There may be between 60 and 100 [people].”

In Quebec, officials have also pleaded with doctors and health-care professionals to help staff long-term care facilities. Legault he had “no other choice” than to ask medical specialists and family physicians for assistance.

There are more than 15,000 cases of the virus in the province to date and 630 deaths attributable to COVID-19. The Quebec government has been trying to slow the spread in dozens of seniors residences, where the situation is critical.

— With files from the Canadian Press