Coroner says Quebec Department of Health chose to ignore COVID-19 risk in long-term care

A long-awaited report from the Quebec coroner says nursing home residents have been kept in a blind spot as the provincial government responded to the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Géhane Kamel, who studied deaths in long-term care in the early days of the pandemic, concludes that despite knowing that older people are particularly vulnerable to the novel coronavirus, the health agency has not given specific guidance to long-term care homes.

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The Herron nursing home was “abandoned” even after the health board took over, records show

Kamel’s investigation looked at 53 long-term care deaths, including 47 at the Herron, a private home in the Montreal area.

Their report, released Monday, recommends that the province’s medical college review the decision by doctors treating patients at three long-term care centers — including the Herron — to offer remote consultations in spring 2020 while people lay dying.

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Quebec’s top doctor defends COVID-19 response as it investigates long-term care deaths

She also recommends giving Quebec’s health director more independence, writing that the director at the time, Dr. Horacio Arruda, may have had difficulty making decisions because he was also Deputy Minister.

According to Kamel, Quebec’s early response to the pandemic suffered from a lack of coordination and a clear chain of command.

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