Quebec releases report on COVID-19 outbreak at CHSLD Sainte-Dorothée

Ministers Blais and Dubé say steps are being taken to prevent future occurrences

A provincial investigative report completed last summer but only released by Quebec last week on the reasons behind the deadly COVID-19 outbreak at CHSLD Sainte-Dorothée lays the blame on technical shortcomings as well as a lack of personnel at the long-term care facility.

The report on CHSLD Sainte-Dorothée was tabled by Minister for Senior Citizens and Caregivers Marguerite Blais and Health and Social Services Minister Christian Dubé, together with another report on the even more devastating outbreak which took place around the same time last spring at the Herron private residence for seniors in Dorval.

Action taken, says Quebec

Both Blais and Dubé insisted that, after the revelations about the devastation from COVID-19 that was taking place at the two residences became known, government and health authorities had already begun to take action so there would be no repeated situations.

More than 100 fatalities from COVID-19 were recorded at CHSLD Sainte-Dorothée by the middle of this summer, ranking the residence among the hardest-hit in the province during the ongoing pandemic.

The report on CHSLD Sainte-Dorothée said that although the residence had been offering quality services prior to the pandemic, a lack of personnel and other factors contributed to a rapid deterioration in living conditions as the pandemic took hold.

Reports were delayed

According to a statement from the provincial government, the reports weren’t released sooner because ministry officials wanted first to analyze the findings, so that appropriate measures could be taken to deal with the problems.

“It is clear to us that the pandemic alone cannot justify what happened,” said Blais. “We learned lessons from the first wave to make sure that we never have to go through human crises like those we lived through last spring. The enquiry’s reports that we have released will serve to better take care of our seniors as well as those from our vulnerable populations at CHSLD Sainte-Dorothée and Herron as well as everywhere across Quebec.”

Lasting solutions, says Dubé

“The pandemic shed light on the shortcomings that were already there in the network,” said Dubé. “The inquiry reports on CHSLDs Herron and Sainte-Dorothée attest to this. The government responded quickly to the conclusions presented in the reports. Not only have the major changes undertaken served to prepare us for the second wave, but our actions will be lasting and their benefits will continue indefinitely after the pandemic.”

‘It is clear to us that the pandemic alone cannot justify what happened,’ says Minister of Senior Citizens Marguerite Blais

The two ministries maintain that concrete measures were implemented in the last few months to improve conditions at the two CHSLDs and at others in order to upgrade conditions for the mostly elderly residents living there.

Thousands of staff hired

The new measures at CHSLD Herron and CHSLD Sainte-Dorothée include having a specialized manager on staff for works in progress, as well as working closely with the provincial ministries to find lasting solutions for current labour shortages.

According to the government, a hiring campaign since the pandemic began has resulted in 7,000 attendants being taken on to assist at CHSLDs. As well, 3,000 more are being hired this fall. The government says a separate program saw 21,000 employees hired, of which 11,000 are still on the job.

In addition, special teams equipped for the disinfection of CHSLDs are being created, with a workforce of 15,000 workers for this purpose.

New procedures and protocols

The government also says that procedures and protocols are being clarified so that there is better communication between the ministries and CHSLDs (private and public) in the future.

As well, new committees are being formed, and new computer technologies are being implemented to streamline the application of medical procedures involving remote consultations.

The two ministries say they are also moving ahead with the planned conversion of private CHSLDs into public CHSLDs, in order to standardize the level of service offered at both.

Finally, the government says it is tabling a proposed new law (Bill 52), whose purpose will be to upgrade procedures for the filing of complaints by service users at private long-term care residences.