A Montreal woman, who says she was denied the right to remove her father from his long-term care facility after a COVID-19 outbreak, is devastated and insulted that her family received a notice from the Quebec health insurance board (RAMQ) outlining an increase in costs for a room he was moved to just days before he died.
Meanwhile, one malpractice lawyer is advising families to seek a court injunction if facilities refuse to release their loved ones.
“It’s unacceptable that the government, instead of sending us their apologies or their condolences, they’re sending us a bill,” said Despina Kouremenos.
Her father, 79-year-old Theodoros Kouremenos, suffered from Alzeihmer’s, colon cancer and diabetes. He was admitted to the CHSLD Notre-Dame-de-la-Merci in October, after his daughter said the family could no longer cope with the minimal home-care services offered by the local health agency.
When the pandemic hit in March, the family expected it would only last a few weeks. But when April rolled around with an outbreak at the facility, the family requested to take him home.
“Unfortunately you cannot take your father out because we have positive cases in the facility,” said one email from the agency to the family.
In the same email, they offered to facilitate a FaceTime conversation with their father. He died two weeks later on April 22.
“The hardest part is that we weren’t able to be with him during his last days and he really didn’t understand what was going on. He couldn’t really understand why we weren’t there with him,” said Despina.
The family received a notice from RAMQ one week after his death outlining an increase in required contributions for the months of April and May, amounting to an increase of about $200 for April and $400 for May.
In a statement to Global News, the local health agency wouldn’t address this specific case but insisted families would be exempt from paying extra fees.
“For the month of April, residents will be billed for the days they were at the CHSLD, at the rate established before the pandemic…There will be no billing for the month of May in the case where the resident died in April,” explained Emily Jacob from media relations at the CIUSSS du Nord-de-l’ile-de-Montreal.
A statement released Tuesday evening from Quebec’s Health and Social Services ministry suggests such charges will be exempted for everyone. “A measure is currently being elaborated to ensure that no user will have to assume an increase in fees related to the fight against COVID-19.”
Malpractice lawyer Patrick Martin-Menard is calling on the government to review the policy adopted in many facilities, forbidding all residents from leaving after an outbreak.
“I think it’s a very misguided way of addressing this,” said Martin-Menard.
“People who do not yet have COVID-19 and would be vulnerable to get it should be offered safe alternatives to staying in a place where they would be likely to get it.”
Families can seek a court injunction if a facility denies them the right to remove a loved-one.
“It’s a matter of fundamental rights, the right to life, the right to security, the right to integrity,” said Martin-Menard. “In a situation like this I think the courts will be very open to hearing arguments about this.”
It’s too late for the Kouremenos family. But the hope is that their father’s story will serve as a wake up call.
“It’s just ironic that they’ve coordinated their efforts to send us two invoices within a week,” said Despina. “But they weren’t able to coordinate the proper resources to help the most vulnerable population.”View link »