Québec, office of the chief coroner has ordered a wide ranging public inquiry into the role of negligence and other factors have played in the death of thousands of people in Québec, residential care for the elderly, a probe that promises to be much more complete than in the limited investigations already in progress.
The investigation will consider some of the 4,858 death in Quebec, in the system of care for the elderly and housing assigned to COVID-19, along with dozens of other cases in which people have died in mysterious circumstances or of violence and neglect. Deaths in long-term care facilities represent 91% of the Quebec death of COVID-19.
The investigation adds to several surveys, the surveys and investigations on the care of the elderly in Canada. where more than 80% of the deaths have taken place. Investigations are being carried out in Ontario and Quebec, the provinces most severely affected by the action, but the unions, the defenders and the critics of the opposition have called for investigations in british Columbia, Alberta and Nova Scotia.
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Last month the Premier of Ontario, Doug Ford, the government has chosen an independent commission to investigate the Ontario long-term care system, because a full public inquiry like the one that is called by the Quebec coroner’s would take too long to reach conclusions, stated Merrilee Fullerton, Ontario Minister of Long-Term Care.
Before the coroner of Québec has announced the new inquiry, the Prime minister François Legault had expressed interest in a quick survey to find solutions before the next wave of coronavirus hits. The provincial Ombudsman had already announced an investigation into the Ministry of Health for the management of the crisis. The quebec coroner will also conduct an investigation on the deaths at Montreal Herron retirement home where at least 51 people dead since the onset of the pandemic, 21 of them from COVID-19. Reporting on the deaths described in many residents suffering from dehydration, hunger, skipped medications, and be left in soiled clothing.
Coroner-in-chief Pascale Descary said discussions with the coroner in charge of the Herron survey, Géhane Kamel, who convinced her it a wider look is needed. Ms. Kamel, a lawyer, a doctor, and Dr. Jacques Ramsay will co-chair the investigation.
“It is essential to dig more in depth with this second level, we have an expanded view, with the public debate, public hearings and a public report,” Dr. Descary said in the announcement of the move. “It doesn’t look in all the thousands of dead, but to examine a sample of cases in a variety of sites to explore what happened and give us an idea of the magnitude of the problems that have led to this crisis.”
The quebec coroner system provides quick, private investigation and public reports in case of sudden death of unknown cause, abuse or neglect, or for large public surveys that can be comprehensive and take place in full view.
The inquiry will examine the period from 12 March to 1 May. Dr. Descary expects hearings to start at the beginning of the next year.
Peter Wheeland of the father, Ken, died of COVID-19 complications to a beaten public nursing home CHSLD LaSalle, in Montreal, and his mother, Connie, has lived in the Herron home at the height of the crisis. He and his sister now provide Mrs. Wheeland 24-hour care in a furnished apartment equipped for intensive care. He said that the coroner’s inquest has the most chance to make changes.
“It is logical that they have looked at Herron in the first and it made them realize the problem is not particular to this institution, but that it is the scale of the province,” he said. “It is government policy that has led to a lot of death in long-term care homes, not a specific house.”
Marguerite Blais, the minister responsible for seniors, said Legault government would cooperate fully with the independent investigation by the coroner. She said it was too early to tell if the other applications will still be carried out, saying that all options are on the table. She has also defended his government’s inability to protect the elderly, for which Mr. Legault has apologized.
“The government of Quebec has done what he could in the face of a global pandemic with a new virus. It is misleading. We didn’t know that asymptomatic people could spread,” she told reporters in Quebec City.
Quebec had a personnel shortage of 10 000 workers in the care sector prior to the onset of the pandemic, and another 10 000 health-care system, the workers have been sick during the first months of the pandemic, or refused to come to work. With the shortage of staff, numerous workers have carried the virus with them from home to home and also spread the disease in the community.
Finally, more than 1,000 Canadian military personnel were called in to help with thousands of volunteers. Mr. Legault has launched a hiring blitz in the hope to add 10,000 new care workers in September.
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