April 13, 2020 – Update on the provincial government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic
In the exceptional circumstances of the current health state of emergency, here is an update on recent decisions by provincial public authorities in connection with the COVID-19 pandemic.
The premier of Québec, François Legault, stated that the overall situation is stabilizing and reiterated the importance of maintaining a physical distance of two metres.
“This will save hundreds of lives. We must be courageous, because better days are ahead,” he said.
CHSLDs and seniors’ residences
Mr. Legault reiterated that the priority now is to do everything we can to take care of the most vulnerable people living in 2,600 residential long-term care centres (CHSLDs) as well as in public and private seniors’ residences across the province.
As promised on Saturday, the 40 private CHSLDs, that are not receiving any public funding, were inspected and “five are being closely monitored,” he said.
Due to fears raised in seniors’ residences in relation to COVID-19, Mr. Legault announced that all public and private residences will be inspected to make sure the situation is under control.
“The vast majority of residences are operating safely,” he said. “Staff is attentive and dedicated. We have also asked that someone be designated to stay in touch with families, for CHSLDs, the private network and hospitals,” he added.
Mr. Legault reiterated that 1,100 people will be redeployed to the most critical locations and that 450 doctors will be added, both general practitioners and specialists.
With regard to prohibited visits for informal caregivers, the premier stressed that it is difficult to sort through the current situation, stating that “if we prevent people from visiting their loved ones, we decrease the risk of contagion, but at the same time, we deprive the elderly and staff of a resource that provides a helping hand.”
Shortage of patient attendants
Premier Legault stressed that there was already a staff shortage before the COVID-19 crisis, and that the current situation has created a work overload that is not helping to attract new staff.
“We want to provide a higher percentage wage increase for patient attendants than for public servants, which is not usually the rule with public service unions. This is not easy to negotiate. So far, we have given temporary wage increases,” he said.
He also explained that enrolment is low for professional training required to fill these jobs. In the current context, employees in the retail, tourism and restaurant industries could redirect their work skills.
“We must place more value on this type of work. And we can’t talk about greater value without talking about wages. This is the biggest challenge we are facing in the medium term,” Mr. Legault said.
Investigations into CHSLDs
Premier Legault reiterated that three investigations are currently being conducted by Public Health, the coroner and the Montréal police force into the Herron Residence in Dorval so that we can “shed light on this case.”
He also added that an investigation is underway into a CHSLD in LaSalle, regarding a situation reported by the staff at this facility.
The minister responsible for seniors and informal caregivers, Marguerite Blais, stated that we need more seniors’ homes for people with more limited functional capacity, in addition to providing larger individual spaces, with private bathrooms, to make it easier to manage certain situations, such as isolation.
The premier announced that elective surgeries that have been postponed could resume in the next few weeks, if the situation continues to stabilize.
Mr. Legault described a new screening test that provides results in one hour. Some 200,000 tests have been ordered.
The supply of personal protective equipment is sufficient for the time being, with the exception of gowns. Within the next week, gowns manufactured in Québec will be available, which should prevent any shortages in the future.
Drugs for sedation
There is a one-week supply of drugs for sedation, particularly for anxiety and surgeries. The provincial and federal governments are looking for solutions to avoid any shortages.
The premier announced that the list of priority services will be extended to include, among others, residential construction, with protective measures for workers, in compliance with Public Health, starting April 20.
“We’re already dealing with a health crisis. We don’t want a housing crisis on top of that,” he said.
Starting April 15, the list of priority services will include:
– Mining activities (manufacturing activities)
– Businesses that produce goods, parts and other material necessary for transportation and logistics
– Landscaping design and maintenance services (including nurseries, garden centres and swimming pool stores)
– Gas stations, motor vehicle maintenance and repair, towing companies, trucking and specialized equipment companies, and road assistance.
Starting today, Télé-Québec will air educational programs for preschool children as well as elementary and high school students.
Premier François Legault thanked everyone working in CHSLDs and seniors’ residences.
“I know that it’s stressful and that we’re understaffed. Everyone needs to do their best under the circumstances. Don’t give up. We’re looking at various scenarios so that we can send in reinforcements. The work you are doing for our elders is invaluable.”