Quebec’s labor shortage played a key role in CHSLD deaths, according to Arruda


The masks were not given to long-term care home workers at first because Quebec was experiencing a serious shortage, Dr Horacio Arruda said Thursday.

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In the grip of labor shortages, a fragile health care network and infected workers, Quebec’s elderly care centers were hit by a perfect storm of negative circumstances in the first wave COVID-19, Horacio Arruda said Thursday during a coroner’s inquest.

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But given that Quebec had detailed plans on how to protect itself against pandemics that identified these problems and presented solutions like the conscription of essential service workers, said coroner Géhane Kamel, questions remain as to the outcome. how the province has done so poorly in protecting its seniors.

“As a human there is something about us that has to ask, ‘How come the train hit us like this?’ “

As the provincial director of public health, Arruda’s testimony was eagerly awaited during the investigation into deaths in long-term care homes (CHSLDs) in Quebec. More than 5,000 elderly people died in care centers across the province between March and August 2020, which was among the highest death rates in elderly care facilities in the world.

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Thursday afternoon, testifying for three and a half hours at the investigation whose intention is to find solutions as opposed to the culprits, Arruda highlighted in a 48-page presentation the many ways in which Quebec has prepared for the COVID-19. As the province’s public health chief since 2012, he has already been through many pandemics, he said.

News of a worrying virus in China was received in Quebec on December 30, he said. When Canada’s chief public health officer notified authorities on January 2, directions were quickly sent to the province’s public health directors. On January 23, when 221 cases and two deaths were reported in four countries, all regional health authorities were alerted, as well as civil security organizations in the province, Arruda said.

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On March 12, the day before the announcement of a health emergency in the province, one of the first directives given was to returning travelers to avoid CHSLDs for 14 days, he said. “Because he ignites if he enters a CHSLD. “

“Seniors have always been at the top of our agenda,” said Arruda. “Whether in the community, in a CHSLD or in a private residence. Even though we did not yet have all the epidemiological information, we did know that severe respiratory illnesses generally hit the… older people. They are the most vulnerable. “

Declaring a health emergency and shutting down Quebec society “is one of the decisions, I am convinced, which saved many lives, both in the community and in CHSLDs”, because it limited contacts, he said. .

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People over 70 have been urged to stay home, bingos have been canceled, and instructions on hand washing and wearing masks have been sent. Part of the problem, Arruda said, was that not everyone heeded the instructions.

Personal caregivers were excluded from retirement homes, a decision criticized because it could have deprived the elderly in understaffed CHSLDs from receiving care. Arruda said the government couldn’t take the risk initially because caregivers tend to be older and at risk.

Coroner Kamel noted that Quebec studies dating back to 2006 on influenza pandemics predicted that more than 30% of staff could be missing, and that governments should be proactive in purchasing protective equipment like masks, as there would be global competition.

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“The question that remains for me is why didn’t we prepare a list (as recommended in many studies) of potential workers – educators, social workers, nutritionists – we already knew our system was fragile.”

Quebec is facing an unprecedented labor shortage, Arruda said. “Then I find myself with an epidemic that resembles the Spanish flu in its speed and impact, an already fragile system, with no room for maneuver – these are elements that are structural, that have contributed. It’s not just one thing that makes a pandemic. It’s a whole bunch of factors.

The masks were not given to CHSLD workers at the beginning because Quebec had a serious shortage, “so we wanted them to be available for health workers and in care centers, because it is there. that there was a significant risk, ”he said. The move was made with other executives and health experts, Arruda said.

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“Is a CHSLD a care center for you? asked Kamel.

“A CHSLD is a mixed space, answers Arruda. The risk of infections in a hospital is much higher because of the type of care provided, he said.

Arruda’s testimony will continue on Monday.

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  1. In August 2021, the Quebec Criminal Prosecution Office declared that no criminal charges would be laid in connection with the deaths at CHSLD Herron during the first wave of the pandemic.

    What we learned from the CHSLD Herron investigation

  2. Quebec Seniors Minister Marguerite Blais has been on sick leave since October 29.

    Quebec Seniors Minister will not testify at the CHSLD death investigation

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