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Orders of doctors, nurses in Quebec to investigate nursing homes in light of coronavirus crisis

Police return a resident of the Yvon-Brunet seniors residence after having wandered away in Montreal, on Thursday, April 16, 2020.
Police return a resident of the Yvon-Brunet seniors residence after having wandered away in Montreal, on Thursday, April 16, 2020. Paul Chiasson/The Canadian Press

Citing concerns amid the novel coronavirus health crisis, three orders representing professional health-care workers in Quebec are launching a joint investigation into long-term care facilities in the province.

The probe, which was announced on Tuesday, will specifically look at the quality of care offered in both public and private nursing homes in the province.

The three orders at the head of the joint investigation — which represent doctors, nurses and licensed practical nurses — will study the practices at the public Institut universitaire de gériatrie de Montréal and the private Residence Herron.

The latter is currently the subject of a police investigation, a coroner’s inquest and a public health probe following at least 31 deaths over the span of a month during the pandemic. At least five deaths have been attributed to COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus.

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READ MORE: Family seeks class-action lawsuit against Residence Herron after mother’s death

In a statement, the province’s order of doctors said it was it “deeply concerned” about seniors living in residential and long-term care centres.

“This is a particularly vulnerable segment of the population, and our role is to ensure that residents of all CHSLDs [long-term care homes] have access to the same quality care and sufficient quantity,” said Dr. Mauril Gaudreault, president of the Collège des médecins du Québec.

The investigation comes as the provincial government pleads for more medical specialists and doctors to lend a helping hand in nursing homes affected by COVID-19. The Canadian Armed Forces have also been deployed to provide assistance.

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READ MORE: Canadian Armed Forces personnel deployed to care homes in Quebec

The respiratory illness has led to more than 900 deaths in the province to date — the majority of which have originated from long-term care facilities.

The pandemic has shed light on the challenges facing seniors residences, including pre-existing staff shortages and low wages for workers.

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Luc Mathieu, president of the Ordre des infirmières et infirmiers du Québec, or the province’s order of nurses, said it is time the province reviews its process of elder care.

“Before the COVID-19 crisis, there was already a lack of nursing home resources and expertise in CHSLDs,” he said.

“The crisis has made the problem more acute and has highlighted this problem.”

The provincial government said on Tuesday afternoon that the majority of the province’s deaths attributed to COVID-19 originated in seniors’ residences. Premier François Legault said there are at least 80 facilities where the situation is not under control.

As part of the investigation, the three orders have mandated different experts to evaluate the quality of care offered in public and private nursing homes.

The health-care professionals will then issue a collective report with findings and recommendations. They did not specify a timeline or date.

Coronavirus outbreak: Quebec reports 102 more deaths, bringing total to 1,041 as half of vacant health-care positions filled
Coronavirus outbreak: Quebec reports 102 more deaths, bringing total to 1,041 as half of vacant health-care positions filled

With files from the Canadian Press

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