Opposition slams Legault government for 'bush medicine' after Senneterre man's death

The Quebec government is set to announce new bonuses for health-care workers following the death of a man from Senneterre who was driven over 130 kilometres by ambulance after his local ER closed.

Opposition parties attacked Premier François Legault and his minister of health, Christian Dubé, saying they carry some of the responsibility for the tragedy.

Dubé said the bonuses would be "excessively high" in order to take into account "the difficulty of recruiting in the regions."

The patient, Richard Genest, had stomach pain and had to be transported 135 kilometres by ambulance on Tuesday, driven to two different towns, because the Senneterre hospital emergency room has been closed from 4 p.m. to 8 a.m. since October 18.

Under pressure, the government quickly changed its tune on the response to the man's death.

"There is no issue for a coroner's inquest for the moment," Dubé said in a press scrum on Thursday.

According to the coroner, "there is no link between the death and these two services," meaning the ambulance and the emergency room, he said.

But shortly after, Dubé wrote on Twitter that people should, in fact, send information to the coroner, and the Quebec coroner's office confirmed it will hold an inquiry into Genest's death.

The three opposition parties, the Liberals, Québec Solidaire and the Parti Québécois, all called for a coroner's inquiry.

The Liberals were outraged at what they described as "bush medicine."

"If there is one person who has a responsibility, it is the Premier," said the leader of the official opposition, Dominique Anglade, during question period, which drew a sharp response from Legault.

"I would invite her to pull herself together -- I would invite her to be worthy of her office," he retorted to Anglade.

The PQ said that for its part, it holds Dubé responsible for the contingency plan that led to the disastrous ambulance transport and Genest's death.

In a press conference, the parliamentary leader of the PQ, Joël Arseneau, recalled that the opposition parties had proposed alternative solutions to the closure of ERs, but that Dubé had endorsed a contingency plan.

According to Arseneau, it is Dubé who is responsible for the current provision of primary health care.

"We want a coroner's inquest to find out if there is a link between the minister's decision to support this plan and this death," Arseneau said.

Anglade recalled that at the start of this crisis, the mayor of Senneterre was only able to obtain a meeting a few minutes long with the health minister.

"Who decided to close this ER? It's the government, Mr. Dubé and Mr. Legault," added Anglade at a press conference at the National Assembly.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published in French on Dec. 2, 2021, with files from CTV News.

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