A former Quebec health minister told a coroner’s inquest Monday that “systemic ageism” and outdated health-care facilities contributed to the tragedy that unfolded in the province’s long-term care homes during the first wave of COVID-19.
Réjean Hébert, who is also a gerontologist, told coroner Géhane Kamel that nearly 10 per cent of the province’s long-term care patients died of COVID-19 in the early months of the pandemic, which is a rate five times higher than that in Canada as a whole.
The former health minister said that even before the pandemic there was a tendency to shift health-care resources toward other priorities, leading to a lack of doctors and nurses to care for vulnerable seniors in care homes.
Hébert also pointed to outdated facilities where patients were subjected to inadequate ventilation and forced to share bedrooms and bathrooms as factors that contributed to Quebec’s high mortality rate.
The coroner’s inquest is examining the deaths of elderly and vulnerable people in residential settings during the COVID-19 pandemic in order to formulate recommendations to avoid future tragedies.
About half the province’s COVID-19 deaths during the first wave occurred in long-term care homes, and some 92 per cent of victims who died between Feb. 25 and July 11 2020 were 70 and older, according to the province’s public health institute.
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