One bath a week: damning report by Quebec ombudsperson

The quality of home care has been denounced once again by the Quebec ombudsperson, in a damning report tabled Thursday in the National Assembly.

Some facilities now offer one bath a week to users, instead of the two or three that used to be provided, ombudsperson Marie Rinfret said in the 2020-2021 annual report.

Rinfret has repeatedly stated that home care services do not meet the needs of society's most vulnerable.

Throughout the year, home services for elderly and disabled users were taken away, she noted, adding that there are regional disparities in the supply of services.

"Mentalities must change in many institutions, with a view of adopting and promoting a culture of services rather than a culture of cuts," she wrote, calling on the Ministry of Health and Social Services to take urgent corrective action in this area.

The ombudsperson also expressed concern over the overcrowding of hospital emergency rooms, which she said could jeopardize the quality of care and the safety of patients.

Rinfret also noted shortcomings in private seniors' residences, including staff shortages, medication errors, inadequate supervision, and services that are unadapted to the clientele. Rinfret has received numerous complaints about long-term care facilities and has called for closer monitoring of these residences by the CISSS and CIUSSS.

BEDBUGS

One case among those reported was a seniors' residence with a bedbug infestation.

"The staff had no training and the management was absent daily, leaving the residents to fend for themselves. The residence did not provide a safe environment and did not meet their needs. Their right to a living environment that complied with the regulations was clearly not being respected," Rinfret concluded.

Throughout the year, Rinfret had to intervene in 34 of the 527 institutions in the healthcare network and in 57 private seniors' residences.

At a press conference, she pleaded for more empathy to be shown by public service providers. The province must take into account the condition of the people who use its services by being flexible, she argued.

It must learn "to deal with situations that are outside the rules, outside the framework," she said.

The COVID-19 pandemic has only accentuated already problematic situations in the provision of public services, notes the ombudsperson.

Alongside the annual report, Rinfret's team also produced a progress report regarding the fate suffered by thousands of people housed in long-term care facilities during the first wave of the pandemic. A final report is expected in the fall.

"This is not the first time that the Quebec ombudsperson has raised a red flag: seniors are completely left to their own devices by the CAQ," said Rosemont MNA Vincent Marissal.

"It's time for Minister Marguerite Blais to take the situation seriously and put an end to the Wild West in the field of RPPs, where all too often, the only rule is profit."

TWO WEEKS WITHOUT SHOWERING

In her report, the ombudsperson mentions various problems within other types of public services, including those provided in detention centres.

Detainees were subject to "inhumane" conditions, Rinfret said, particularly during the first wave of the pandemic.

Because of COVID-19, anyone newly admitted to a detention facility was required to quarantine for 14 days.

During these two weeks, detainees were deprived of showers and had no possibility of changing clothes.

Measures may have caused "a serious blow to the mental health of the detainees," she said.

Since then, many COVID restrictions in detention centres have been fully or partially lifted.

"This year, many complaints have denounced the intolerable conditions of detention during the pandemic."

--This report was first published in French by The Canadian Press on Sept. 30, 2021). 

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