The glaring shortcomings in Quebec’s long-term care homes were repeatedly flagged to authorities long before the novel coronavirus pandemic ravaged CHSLDs, the province’s ombudsman said Thursday.
Marie Rinfret pointed to several flaws in her annual report, saying the provincial government has failed to implement solutions to address longstanding failures in the eldercare system.
“Understaffing, employee burnout, lack of qualified workers and dilapidated premises — these problems, among others, gushed to the surface, if not to say exploded,” she wrote.
“And yet, the appalling state of long-term care resources that this picture paints has been repeatedly condemned for decades.”
The scathing findings in the report cover the 2019-20 period until March 31, when the COVID-19 health crisis was only in its third week.
Rinfret said it would have been “quite unlikely” for Quebec’s health ministry to have had a perfect response to the pandemic, but that the government had been “forewarned many times” about the shortcomings in seniors’ residences ahead of the crisis.
“Unfortunately, solutions that would have provided the elderly with a safe, compassionate and responsive living environment were postponed,” she wrote.
“To sum up, after we have all done our homework, at a certain point we have to admit that there is nothing more to say, that no more information is needed, and that it is time for action. Now.”
The health crisis shone a glaring light on the province’s nursing homes and eldercare system as the virus spread through residences during the first wave of the pandemic.
The Canadian military, which was called in as reinforcement in long-term care facilities in the spring, also produced a report on challenges facing homes amid COVID-19. It pointed to staffing shortages, among other major problems.
Quebec has since trained thousands of new orderlies to address the shortage in long-term care homes ahead of a potential second wave in the fall.
Health Minister Christian Dubé said he was aware of Rinfret’s report and he plans to take a closer look at it, but he acknowledged there are longstanding issues in CHSLDs that the government is working to fix.
“I’m very realistic here, we can’t correct everything in a few months,” he said. “And I think we’re all very conscious of this.”
The ombudsman’s report was released one day after the Quebec government released the findings of an investigation into Residence Herron, a private long-term care home in Dorval where 38 people died between March 26 and April 16. The report found owners displayed “organizational negligence.”
— with files from The Canadian PressView link »