Quebec could by no means get the complete story behind COVID-19 care residence deaths, coroner warns

Quebec coroner Géhane Kamel mentioned Monday that grieving households could by no means get the complete story behind the hundreds of deaths that occurred in long-term care properties throughout the first wave of COVID-19.

Kamel expressed shock that after a yearlong investigation, there appeared to be no consensus from witnesses on the timeline of how the federal government responded to the well being disaster or the place blame ought to lie for the tragedy.

Her feedback got here after a former supervisor with the Well being Division advised the inquest on Monday that the Quebec authorities solely grew to become conscious of the chance COVID-19 posed to long-term care properties in mid-March 2020.

Martin Simard’s testimony backed up that of Seniors Minister Marguerite Blais, however it contradicted the testimony of different outstanding witnesses, together with the province’s ex-public well being director and former well being minister, who each mentioned the province knew of the chance in late January.

Simard mentioned that written inner communication on COVID-19 preparation from January was aimed on the community as a complete and didn’t focus particularly on the care properties, referred to as CHSLDs.

Kamel has been inspecting the deaths of aged and weak individuals in seven residential settings throughout the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, in addition to investigating the federal government’s response to the outbreaks.

On Monday, Kamel mentioned she was “flabbergasted” on the statements she had heard and on the incapability of some witnesses to confess that care properties had been a “blind spot” within the authorities’s response.

“It’s been a 12 months that what we’ve been advised is, ‘I can’t let you know, I can’t say, and it might not be our division or our group that was managing,’” she mentioned.

“It appears to me that folks ought to be capable of inform us in all honesty: ‘Hear, we could have had a bit of blind spot on the subject of CHSLDs.’”

Simard advised the inquiry that the long-term care properties solely grew to become a “named subject” on March 11. He mentioned it was the accountability of then-public well being director Dr. Horacio Arruda to focus on the chance to care properties.

He mentioned his position was primarily certainly one of co-ordination between departments and that he skilled no difficulties in that regard.

Kamel had beforehand expressed hope that Simard’s testimony would show to be the “lacking piece of the puzzle.” On Monday, nonetheless, she mentioned that piece would most likely stay lacking and that bereaved households would doubtless be left with out solutions.

“We are able to’t resolve this story … is it regular that to today, we’re not capable of have a narrative that holds collectively?” she mentioned.

“We are able to’t even get this chronology, as a result of it’s totally different relying on which actor is in entrance of us.”

After Simard concluded his testimony, the lawyer for six of the households who misplaced family members within the properties blasted the federal government response, and Arruda particularly.

Quebec public well being reacted “on the similar rhythm because the inhabitants” — as an alternative of planning forward when it was clear as of January 2020 that there was a risk to the inhabitants, Patrick Martin-Menard mentioned.

He mentioned the slowness of the response was even tougher to elucidate on condition that the province had an influenza pandemic plan it may have deployed. “Resulting from this inaction, due to this confusion, this lack of readability and management, we misplaced essential weeks,” Martin-Menard advised the inquiry.

Martin-Menard mentioned it was clear the province hadn’t acted shortly, regardless of what some witnesses claimed, and that Quebecers in long-term care properties had paid the worth.

“We allow them to die alone … in full indignity, not as a result of it was an inevitable state of affairs, however as a result of we didn’t adequately put together.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first printed Jan. 17, 2022.

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