Quebec’s Ombudsperson set to investigate ­response to COVID-19 in seniors’ residences

Record Staff

Quebec’s Ombudsperson is launching a thorough and impartial investigation into the mishandling of the COVID-19 crisis in seniors’ residences by the Legault government and the health system.
In a statement Tuesday, Marie Rinfret, elected Ombudsperson in 2017, said the devastating situation in CHSLDs and private seniors’ residences across the province has brought many lingering and systematic problems into focus.
“The current crisis is happening in living environments that were vulnerable to begin with and where there were known problems that were often criticized by the Québec Ombudsman,” Rinfret said.
Staffing shortages, high turnover rates for health care attendants and lack of accountability of private residences by the public health network are all issues that have persisted for many years, she added.
There are over 4,100 COVID-19 related deaths in Quebec to date with more than 81 per cent of those deaths occurring either at long-term care homes or at private seniors residences.
The plan is to conduct a roughly year long investigation. A complete and detailed report should be finished by autumn 2021, but there will be a progress update distributed in autumn 2020.
After years of negligence, Rinfret believes seniors’ needs must become a priority in Quebec. The sweeping investigation will uncover areas of improvement in residences and help establish measures to better handle “future pandemics or any other similar crisis.”
“It is also obliged to be better equipped to deal with possible crises as severe as the one we are living through now in order to protect the rights of the citizens who built Québec and who continue to be part of what it is becoming and will become,” said Rinfret.
The investigation is multifaceted and will deep dive into many public and private institutions. Rinfret will also review homes known as intermediate resources, centres created to help people with limited mobility.
There are also other independent investigations into the province’s long-term care homes. The Montreal police and coroner’s office launched an investigation. Premier Francois Legault is conducting a public inquiry after the COVID-19 pandemic subsides.
With hundreds of military personnel deployed throughout dozens of long-term care homes, the Canadian Armed Forces also plans to prepare a report about their mission, according to a spokeswoman for Public Safety Minister Bill Blair.
In a statement sent to The Canadian Press Tuesday evening, the Canadian Armed Forces said that members “have an obligation to report their observations as they pertain to the mission.”

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