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May 27, 2020 – Federal and provincial government updates on the COVID-19 pandemic

In the exceptional circumstances of the current health state of emergency, here is an update on recent decisions and actions by the Canadian and Québec governments in connection with the COVID-19 pandemic.

10,000 permanent jobs offered in CHSLDs

The premier of Québec, François Legault, called on 10,000 people to enrol in paid training, from mid-June to mid-September, to become full-time patient attendants in residential and long-term care centres (CHSLDs).

The training will be offered at an hourly wage of $21, and, once hired, the starting salary will be $26 an hour, for a weekly salary of $940, or $49,000 a year.

The purpose of this hiring blitz is to resolve the endemic staffing shortages in CHSLDs that have existed for many years.

Recognizing the value of patient attendants

Mr. Legault also wants to see more value attributed to the role of patient attendants and to ensure that they will be able to spend more time and give more attention to CHSLD residents, in addition to providing them with care.

Along with this enhanced recognition, dilapidated centres will be renovated and transformed, and new seniors’ homes will be built.

Mr. Legault also wants the title “patient attendant” to be changed to better reflect the supportive role they play with residents.

Armed Forces report on CHSLDs

Premier Legault understands that the military’s report on its interventions in Québec’s CHSLDs, made public yesterday, is also a judgment on the “many years of neglect in CHSLDs.”

“There’s a shortage of 10,000 employees, it’s embarrassing for all of Québec society. We should have […] increased budgets and salaries a long time ago,” he said.

Mr. Trudeau and Mr. Legault discussed the possibility of extending the military’s mission in CHSLDs until September 15.

Reviewing care for seniors

The prime minister confirmed that beyond the current crisis, a review will be conducted on how seniors are cared for in Canada. He plans to talk about this again with his provincial counterparts tomorrow evening.

Mr. Legault stated that if the federal government wants to help improve the situation, it has to increase its health transfers to all provinces.

“It used to be 50% of budgets. Now it’s 23%. It’s a very heavy burden for the provinces,” said Mr. Legault.

Negative reaction to sick leave

Premier Legault said that companies have had a “very negative” reaction to Prime Minister Trudeau’s proposal to give 10 days’ sick leave this fall to all workers across the country.

“I completely understand the goal of ensuring that employees who have COVID-19 symptoms don’t feel obliged to go to work to earn their pay. We’ll have to discuss this.”

The issues raised by companies pertain both to the organization of work as well as to wanting to know who will pay for sick leave.

No extension of CERB?

The prime minister strongly encouraged businesses to take advantage of the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy (CEWS) in order to maintain employment ties with their staff as isolation measures are eased and the economy starts to reopen.

“To relaunch the economy, people need to work, and stores and businesses need clients. If you’re an employer, rehire your employees,” said Mr. Trudeau.

Mr. Trudeau is not promising to extend the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB), valid for 16 weeks, from March 15 to October 3. “It’ll be important to reasonably and responsibly bring to an end the various programs we have instituted (for the pandemic),” he said.

Avoid a new lockdown

Admitting that he may come across as the voice of doom and gloom, the national director of Public Health, Dr. Horacio Arruda, reiterated the importance of respecting social distancing, handwashing, isolation and wearing a mask to prevent another generalized isolation of the population and a second shut down of the economy.

“We all made a great sacrifice. Everyone shut themselves in. We put a serious pause on the economy. […] The way things are now, we really want to return to normal life. But, everything is still very fragile. I’m calling on all Quebecers to respect the health directives. This is absolutely essential. Things cannot be like they were before,” he said.