Quebec’s top doctor questioned over lack of preparation at inquest into COVID long-term care deaths


The coroner leading an inquest into COVID-19 deaths in Quebec’s long-term care homes says she’s concerned the facilities weren’t prepared for the first wave of the pandemic.

Géhane Kamel made the comments Monday as Quebec public health director Dr. Horacio Arruda testified for a second day before the inquiry.

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Kamel says past testimony at the inquest indicated authorities were aware of the risks to long-term care residents but took fewer precautions to protect those facilities compared to what they did to prepare hospitals.

Nearly 4,000 people died in long-term care homes in the early months of the pandemic.

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Arruda says a planning guide had been sent to long-term care homes on March 12, 2020, but he adds that Quebec’s focus was on preparing hospitals, based on the experience in Italy, where hospitals had been overwhelmed.

He says, however, the lack of staff and personal protective equipment in long-term care homes raises questions about the organization of Quebec’s long-term care system.

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On Thursday, Arruda testified that he did not remember whether he had issued a formal recommendation against long-term care staff working in multiple facilities, a practice that has been linked with the spread of COVID-19.

On Monday, Arruda confirmed he had not sent such a recommendation.

© 2021 The Canadian Press