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August 18, 2020 – Provincial government update on the COVID-19 pandemic

Here is an update on recent decisions and actions by the Québec government in connection with the COVID-19 pandemic.

Québec’s action plan

The Québec government presented its action plan for confronting a potential second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, which hinges on nine specific areas of intervention and the hiring of 1,000 additional people to increase the tracing capacity in the event of outbreaks.

The minister of Health and Social Services, Christian Dubé presented the plan along with the minister for Health and Social Services, Dr. Lionel Carmant, the minister responsible for seniors and informal caregivers, Marguerite Blais, and the national director of Public Health, Dr. Horacio Arruda.

The plan is based on the lessons learned during the first wave when Québec presented the highest number of cases and deaths in Canada. Minister Dubé pointed out that one of the main points is prohibiting the movement of staff to avoid spreading the virus in facilities and the rigorous application of the rules for infection prevention and control (IPAC). “We’ve learned from what we did right and what we didn’t do right,” he said.

A $106-million budget has been handed down to hire 1,000 new workers and to purchase additional equipment.

Mr. Dubé explained that staff shortages, obsolete infrastructure as well as vague rules of governance made it difficult to manage the crisis


Nine areas of intervention

To ensure that the health network functions much more effectively in the case of a second wave, nine areas of intervention have been identified:

  • Have a manager responsible for each CHSLD.
  • Maintain safe access for caregivers.
  • Provide home support services adapted to the needs of users.
  • Minimize the reassignment of staff away from social services.
  • Conduct a massive recruitment of patient attendants in CHSLDs.
  • Prohibit employee mobility, while ensuring strict adherence to the rules for infection prevention and control (IPAC).
  • Reduce timeframes for all of the steps in the screening process.
  • Support an optimal offer of services in surgery, endoscopy and medical imaging.
  • Ensure the supply of personal protective equipment (PPE) by reaching agreements with Québec manufacturers to produce strategic products.
  • Reach the entire population through targeted communications adapted to various groups.


10,000 patient attendants

The minister responsible for the action plan emphasized that one of the government’s positive actions will have been its success in training 10,000 patient attendants in order to meet the major staffing needs in residential and long-term care centres (CHSLDs).

Some 8,000 people are currently being trained and a second cohort of 2,000 people will receive training in September.

The minister reiterated that the two main reasons why the contagion spread so widely in CHSLDs was due to the movement of staff and a lack of training on the use of protective equipment and the application of infection control protocols.

With the arrival of these new workers, the government will be able to prohibit the movement of staff and guarantee that infection control protocols are respected.


Screening is the name of the game

Minister Dubé explained that screening is the name of the game in the fight against COVID-19, since it enables an effective and rapid response to each new outbreak.

He explained that the recent outbreaks in the Saint-Jérôme and Saint-Eustache hospitals as well as one in the CHSLD in Lanaudière provided opportunities to test this action plan, with successful outcomes.

“We learned how to work. We have the resources,” he said. These outbreaks were quickly contained thanks to screening and the care and intervention protocols learned during the first wave.


Equipment supply

The supply of medical protective equipment is now almost ensured in Québec, with the exception of protective gloves and N95 masks.

The minister of Health and Social Services, Christian Dubé, explained that supplies are now guaranteed for gowns and surgical masks, and that a manufacturing plant for N95 masks will begin production in Montréal this fall. The supply of these masks will be ensured in Québec early next year, at the latest.

Gloves, however, are produced in only one location in the world due to the environmental issues surrounding their manufacture.


Long-term wearing of masks

The national director of Public Health, Dr. Horacio Arruda, stated that while the wearing of masks is here to stay, at least until the pandemic becomes a thing of the past, the most important preventive measures are physical distancing of two metres and handwashing. Wearing a mask is essential when physical distancing of two metres is not possible.

Dr. Arrud pointed out that, at the moment, most outbreaks are occurring in family gatherings where physical distancing is not being applied as strictly as it should.


The future: homecare

The minister responsible for seniors and informal caregivers, Marguerite Blais, stated that the lesson learned from the pandemic is that the future will resolutely be geared towards providing healthcare at home.

“This shift is essential. People who are losing their autonomy want to stay home as long as possible.”

To prevent the events of last spring from ever occurring again, she announced that the government is also preparing its first policy on health and long-term care facilities in Québec, which will also govern private facilities.


$70 million in assistance

The minister for Health and Social Services, Dr. Lionel Carmant, announced $70 million in financial assistance to community organizations in the health and social services sector so that they “can continue to play a vital role.”

With COVID-19, they are struggling to raise funds and are having a hard time making ends meet. The 3,600 eligible groups will benefit from this support program for community organizations.