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MONTREAL -- >
A total of 688 people have died of COVID-19 in Quebec, health authorities announced Friday, as confirmed cases in the province reached 16,798.
That’s up by 58 from the 630 deaths reported Thursday. Total COVID-19 cases in Quebec rose by 941 from the 15,857 announced a day earlier.
As of Friday, 3,068 have recovered from the virus.
There are 1.076 people being treated for COVID-19 in Quebec hospitals as of Friday, up 58 from the 1,018 reported Thursday; of those in a hospital, 207 are in intensive care, down by two from the 209 reported a day earlier.
PREMIER LEGAULT ADMITS REGRETS
Quebec Premier Francois Legault spoke of some of his regrets in terms of the long-term care facilities, rocked by outbreaks and deaths since the start of the pandemic. As many as 75 per cent of long-term care homes in Montreal are experiencing COVID-19 outbreaks, and about half of coronavirus deaths in the province stemmed from these facilities.
Legault said he wished he’d raised the wages of orderlies sooner, even without a collective agreement in place.
“I’m not perfect, and I think I should have increased the wages of orderlies before the crisis,” he said.
He also spoke to criticism about the cost of having medical specialists work in the long-term care facilities, saying now is not the time to negotiate how much doctors will be paid, they want to do what they can to help.
“Now is not the time to talk about money, now is the time to save lives, saving the lives of our elderly,” he said. “We need the 2,000 pairs of hands that you’re giving us, and we need your expertise as well.”
In an open letter, the union representing MUHC employees accused Legault of intending to leave nurses, orderlies and other workers "out in the cold."
"If our union at the CSN accepted what you are asking for it would mean, that you are asking us to give minimal increases for some 250 job titles, and for this you say that you are surprised and disappointed," they wrote. "Mr. Legault, the demand of $3 per hour for everyone as of April 1, 2020 and $1 or inflation for each year in 2021 and 2022 are on the table because for 30 years now, governments have been imposing wage increases below inflation."
Legault said the province is working to get more orderlies and nurses into residences, but that they are in “problem-solving mode,” adding that he acknowledges that “we cannot keep our doctors there forever.”
Legault said teams have so far called 29,345 of the 51,967 people who signed up to offer health and social services on the Je Contribue website. Of them, they offered to hire 6,773. Legault said 2,097 decided not to accept, leaving 4,676 people who signed up on the website and are now working in the health and social service network. Health Minister Danielle McCann added that government teams are continuing to call people who have offered to help.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau confirmed on Friday that 125 Armed Forces members with medical training will begin working in Quebec long-term care facilities as of Friday.
“We were asking Justin Trudeau for a few days if he’s got some members of the Forces having the qualifications to help, especially nurses. We only got the final answer this morning, that there are 125 people available to do that. As soon as we got this information, we confirmed that we want them,” said Legault.
Legault stressed that there is no shortage of protective equipment in the health network for workers. It’s possible, he said, that there will be a few issues with distribution, but there’s no scarcity of gear.
“We have materials,” he said, “I wish to be very clear about that.”
FARM WORK PROGRAM
Legault also touched on an announcement set to take place Friday afternoon about a work program for farming in the province. The $45-million plan will offer a $100 weekly top-up in additional to the farmers' pay to Quebecers who offer to pitch in on the province’s farms. Farmers will face a work shortage due to many migrant workers unable to spend the summer in the province.
“I encourage you to come help in our fields, help our farmers and help us be more autonomous food-wise in Quebec,” he said adding that he knows working in the field and with animals is not easy work, “but I think it will be a beautiful experience.”