During Tuesday’s briefing, Premier Francois Legault said the province could run out of certain medical supplies being used to address the COVID-19 pandemic within three to seven days. “The priority is medical equipment,” Legault said, asking health professionals to use only what is necessary. “We need masks for the duration of the crisis,” the premier said. Orders are expected in the coming days, according to Legault. In the meantime, Ontario Premier Doug Ford has transferred some supplies including masks to Quebec, with more expected in a few days. Legault applauded the work being done by the federal government to help secure orders for masks and equipment coming from other countries. Health and Social Services Minister Danielle McCann asked that health workers disinfect and reuse masks, specifically the N-95. According to McCann, people who are infected with COVID-19 should wear a mask, as should their caregivers. Others don’t need a mask unless they will be in contact with someone who is infected.
Quebec’s plan is to start by rationing use while waiting for orders for more supplies to arrive.
Legault said the province is working hard in the medium-term to find local companies who could manufacture the masks and supplies needed for front line health care workers. When asked how supplies dropped so quickly from having ‘enough for a few weeks’ to being out of stock within three to seven days, Legault said some orders were not delivered and usage has gone up because of the increase in positive COVID-19 cases, but claimed his estimates were consistent with where supply levels are. Minister McCann added that currently, the province is using 10 times more equipment than usual. The health network is going through the protective gear normally used for one year in four weeks, she said. Legault added that the shortage in Quebec is no different than in other countries. “We’re all in the same situation,” he said.
Check in on people in isolation
Legault stressed the importance of reaching out to people who are alone in isolation. “For those who are not alone, call someone who is alone,” the premier said. “To get through this fight, we need to remain united. A phone call can make a big difference.”
During question period one reporter asked if the government had a plan in place for mental health services given the fact that there are waiting lists in the public system and many can’t afford private therapy. Minister McCann said there are currently around 325,000 Quebecers with a diagnosed mental health issue. Professionals are being asked to call and check in on those patients, as well as people on the waiting list. McCann added that anyone who feels they need support should call their local CLSC. Assistance can be made available by phone, or other arrangements can be made. There are also a number of phone lines outside the health care system available offering mental health support, McCann said. The reporter then asked how an overburdened system with a waiting list could suddenly accommodate everyone. “The network is transforming,” McCann replied. Within 10 days, 30 per cent of professionals started offering teleconferencing and consultation options. “We can’t do it all that way, but we can do a lot,” the minister said, adding that the recent changes in the network will benefit the population in the long term.
Published in the Wednesday, April 1 edition of The Record.