CHSLDs were used to managing outbreaks, says Marguerite Blais

The Minister of Seniors and Caregivers, Marguerite Blais, says she learned on March 9, 2020 that people aged 65 and over were at risk of developing severe symptoms of COVID-19.

But according to her testimony, she was more or less worried about it, confident that the CHSLDs were "used to" managing outbreaks.

On several occasions before the coroner, Blais pleaded that the CHSLDs had a culture of infection prevention and control.

Blais said, "Ms. Coroner, long-term care facilities are known to manage outbreaks. This is not the first time there have been outbreaks in CHSLDs, and it will not be the last."

"I'm convinced that it is being handled ... For me, the CHSLDs know how to manage outbreaks."

In any case, she said, "No one believed that it would affect the living environments as it has affected the living environments; they believe that it will affect the hospitals."

"That's the reality," she added.

Before beginning her testimony, Blais made a statement. She expressed her deepest condolences to the families of the seniors who died in CHSLDs during the first wave of the pandemic. 

"People are grieving; I am, too," she said.

She said the deaths of thousands of seniors in long-term care facilities in 2020 did not leave her "indifferent" and that she considered the coroner's inquest "fundamental" to improving seniors' care.

The 71-year-old minister acknowledged that she had been on the front lines of the crisis, and that she owed it to the families to "take responsibility" and come forward to testify at the inquest.

Blais explained that she was unable to testify in November because of burnout, saying, "I was too emotional."

Her testimony will continue Friday.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published in French on Jan. 14, 2022. 

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