MONTREAL -- The Quebec government has released its nine-point plan to prepare for a potential second wave of COVID-19 in the province.

Unveiled Tuesday, preparations focus on the following areas: living environments for the elderly, vulnerable people, the workforce, testing, prevention and control of outbreaks, clinical organization and services, procurement, governance and communications.

Preparations to ready health and social services will be in place by Sept. 30, officials said, adding that it is taking stock of lessons learned from the first wave as it sets priorities for the road ahead.

A sum of $106 million will be earmarked as an emergency fund for public health for hiring 1,000 employees and procuring material resources.

Health and Social Services Minister Christian Dube, junior health minister Lionel Carmant, Seniors and Caregivers Minister Marguerite Blais and Quebec's public health director Dr. Horacio Arruda made the announcement in Quebec City on Tuesday.

"We have learned an enormous amount from the first wave and we were able to draw lessons from it," said Dube. "Together, we went through the first wave and it is together that we will beat this virus."

The health minister pointed to the CHSLD orderly program, saying that 8,000 trained workers will be joining the network in September and another 2,000 will be trained beginning in September, adding a total of 10,000 workers to the fold.

Some of the measures:

  • Have a manager responsible for each long-term care facility (CHSLD)
  • Maintain safe access for family caregivers
  • Offer home support services adapted to users' needs
  • Keep turnover in social services to a minimum
  • Massively recruit workers in CHSLDs
  • Stop workforce from moving throughout the system, while strictly respecting infection prevention and control regulations
  • Reduce screening process time
  • Support optimal services in surgery, endoscopy and medical imaging
  • Ensure the supply of personal protective equipment (PPE) by entering into agreements with Quebec manufacturers to produce strategic products
  • Reaching the entire population through targeted communications tailored to various audiences

Dube said that people will be held accountable going forward, but didn't want to lay the blame on any workers for the first wave of COVID-19, saying they suffered from a lack of resources.

"Instead of looking at who is guilty or who is not, we decided to focus on what needs to be done," said Dube.

Regional public health services are expected to be better able to quickly trace cases of COVID-19 thanks to 1,000 new full-time positions.

The goal, officials said, is to prevent and manage outbreaks in various settings and coordinate the administration of a possible vaccine.

Blais said special attention will be paid to seniors in care homes, saying it is "undeniable" they were "hardest hit by the pandemic."

"With a view to a possible second wave, we are doing everything we can to protect our seniors and vulnerable people and ensure that caregivers will be able to fulfill their essential role alongside them," she said. 

"It is now time, more than ever, to protect those most vulnerable. There is no doubt it is the elderly and those who live in long-term care," said Blais, offering condolences to victims of the pandemic and calling it the province's 'Achilles heel.'

Blais said the pandemic shed light on pre-existing issues in the long-term care network that should have benefitted from more attention and care, she said.

The seniors' minister spoke of the need for more accountability in the network, pointing to a plan to have a single manager at each residence, a priority she said will be done "very quickly."

"For me, it is absolutely necessary that this pandemic can be used for something," she said. "We owe it to the victims and we owe it to the elderly."