CHSLD residents died without dignity, according to Quebec’s ombudsperson

Record Staff
CHSLD residents died without dignity, according to Quebec’s ombudsperson
The CHSLD d’Youville, one of the facilities in the Estrie that has had to deal with an outbreak (Photo : Matthew McCully)

The dire situation that erupted in CHSLDs across Quebec during the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic was a result of poor management, lack of equipment and improper training, according to province’s ombudsperson.
Ombudsperson Marie Rinfret, who is currently investigating the events that unfolded in long-term care facilities at the early stages of the pandemic, released a progress report on Thursday. CHSLDs were ill-prepared to cope with a deadly virus, Rinfret said during a virtual conference.
“Based on the findings from the witness statements that came out of our investigation […] we can already identify lessons to be learned from the first wave that hit CHSLDs,” she said in a press release distributed prior to the conference.
The 20-page report is based on extensive interviews with “residents, family members, CHSLD staff, and CISSS and CIUSSS managers.” Rinfret and her team also received 1,355 witness statements from people on the ground during the initial outbreak in CHSLDs.
Although the investigation is ongoing, Rinfret has already established, thanks to numerous testimonies from healthcare workers, that the CHSLD system is broken. The report highlights five points of action for the government in an attempt to fix the problem.
Rinfret is asking the government to focus on meeting the needs of residents and respecting their dignity. She wants to see a stable work force, as well as a sufficient number of staff, and strong local leadership. There also needs to be a culture shift in regard to infection prevention.
The document also notes a need to “strengthen local, regional and Quebec-wide communication channels.” Rinfret has determined that CHSLDs were a blind spot during the early days on the pandemic.
The report points out that hospitals received most of the support with long-term care facilities being an after-thought. Health authorities underestimated the virulence of the novel coronavirus and its impact on elderly folks.
Many CHSLD residents died alone, Rinfret added, because informal caregivers and staff were often stretched to their limits; forced to make a decision between which patients to offer bedside comfort. “I don’t consider that these people died in dignity,” said Rinfret.
There was also a universal problem regarding personal protective equipment. It wasn’t distributed equally, she explained, and healthcare workers weren’t told how to use them. They were ill-equipped, yet they were expected to provide the same care as hospitals.
Other findings in the report include the late arrival of relief teams, staff members coming in and out of the building, spreading the virus, and the postponement of basic care and services. Decision-making abilities were also given to people far-removed from the situation.
The ombudsperson acknowledged the sacrifice and dedication of Quebec’s healthcare workers, noting that the pandemic has taken a heavy toll; mentally and physically. According to the report, between March 1 and June 14, 13,581 healthcare workers contracted the virus.
Rinfret expects to complete her investigation by the fall of 2021. But while Quebecers wait for the final report, COVID-19 cases in the province continue to rise. According to the province’s public health authority, there was another 1,842 new cases in the last 24 hours.
The total number of people infected stands at 158,310. The data also shows 33 new deaths, for a total of 7,382, with eight deaths occurring in the last 24 hours. There are also four more hospitalizations for a total of 848 and eight people were released from intensive care bringing the total to 113.
The Eastern Townships recorded 120 new positive cases for a total of 5,723. There was one new death, at the Hôpital et centre d’hébergement Argyll, for a total of 86. There are 25 people confirmed in the hospital, as well as five people in intensive care.
The region’s local health authority also noted several outbreaks. There are 10 new cases in Hôpital et centre d’hébergement D’Youville, nine residents and one staff, for a total of 20 residents and five staff.
The Centre d’hébergement Villa-Bonheur has another four cases, all employees, bringing the total to 86 residents and 71 employees testing positive for COVID-19. The Résidence Haut-Bois added six new cases among its residents for a total of 15.

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