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Quebec long-term care homes grappling with major challenges, military report outlines

Military releases report on Quebec’s long-term care homes
WATCH: More than 1,300 military personnel were deployed to help regain control of Quebec’s long-term care residences grappling with COVID-19 outbreaks. On Wednesday, the military released its report. Dan Spector has more on what was observed inside the province's hardest hit CHSLD's.

Quebec is asking for the military to stay in long-term care homes until September and will launch a large recruiting campaign to train and hire more orderlies on the heels of a report by the Canadian Armed Forces into the challenges facing those facilities.

Premier François Legault said on Wednesday that the 60-page report did “not have a lot of surprises” about the state of nursing homes, known as CHSLDs, amid the novel coronavirus health crisis.

“The situation remains difficult,” he said, noting facilities desperately need more workers.

The report by the military, which was released by the government on Wednesday, outlines three major challenges in Quebec’s long-term care homes: staffing shortages, management of personal protective equipment and how hot zones related to COVID-19 are handled.

Canadian Armed Forces teams were sent to lend a helping hand to the facilities hardest hit by the pandemic following a request for help from Legault. Quebec leads the country in both its caseload and deaths attributable to virus.

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READ MORE: Nothing ‘off the table’ in solving long-term care crisis, Trudeau says

The report details the conditions in 25 long-term care homes in the province, mostly located in Montreal. Col. T.M. Arsenault wrote that the “pressing need” for the facilities is more medically-trained staff.

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This includes a widespread lack of personnel and high absenteeism, which military members said negatively affected patient hygiene.

“It should be noted that several of our members have witnessed and experienced exceptionally difficult situations in CHSLDs,” wrote Arsenault.

In some cases, soldiers also noted disappearing medical supplies and residents circulating within homes without protective equipment.

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Coronavirus: Quebec Premier pleads for more people to work in the province’s health-care network
Coronavirus: Quebec Premier pleads for more people to work in the province’s health-care network

At Vigi Mont-Royal, for example, the percentage of infected residents rose from 84 per cent to 100 per cent during the period covered in the report. An order of 20 boxes of masks appeared to have gone missing, as did a shipment of narcotics, the report said.

“A lack of medical equipment is often noted during shift changes, and soldiers have had to intervene in several instances to offer solutions to allow care personnel to carry out their work in a safe manner,” the report read.

READ MORE: Military teams raise concerns about conditions at Ontario care homes

In wake of the report, Legault pledged to offer paid training in hopes of recruiting 10,000 orderlies to start working in those facilities full-time in September. Having more staff will help rectify many of the ongoing problems in the beleaguered long-term care home network, he added.

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“We still need more people,” he said.

Quebec remains the epicentre of the virus’s outbreak in Canada. The province reported 89 additional deaths on Wednesday, bringing the total to 4,228. There are 541 new cases for a total of 49,139.

‘We need to do a better job caring for seniors’

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said daily briefing on Wednesday that the report shows “serious issues that deserve to be brought to the attention of Quebec.”

“As I’ve said many times, we need to do a better job caring for seniors,” he said. “They raised us, they built this country, they deserve better.”

Trudeau remained stayed tight-lipped on whether he believes there should be a national inquiry into the state of the challenged system in Quebec and Ontario, but said there needs to be conversations on how to care for elders in the long-term.

Coronavirus outbreak: Nothing is off the table in solving long-term care home crisis, Trudeau says
Coronavirus outbreak: Nothing is off the table in solving long-term care home crisis, Trudeau says

The findings into Quebec’s homes come after the military released a separate damning report into five long-term care facilities in Ontario, which alleged bleeding infections, residents crying for help for hours and failure to isolate residents who tested positive for the novel coronavirus. The level of care provided was described as “horrible” in documents obtained by Global News.

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Trudeau said the Ontario report was “deeply disturbing.” Ontario Premier Doug Ford has called for an investigation into the allegations, which he described as “horrific.”

In Quebec, the province’s ombudsperson announced earlier this week she is launching her own “impartial and independent” investigation into the government and health network’s handling of the crisis in long-term care homes and seniors residences.

As the death toll continues to climb, Marie Rinfret said she has concerns over the measures implemented to protect seniors during the pandemic. Her report is due in fall 2021.

As of Sunday, more than 81 per cent of Quebec’s deaths related to COVID-19 had occurred at either long-term care homes or private seniors residences.

— With files from Global News’ Beatrice Britneff and the Canadian Press