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Seniors' coalition asks for 24/7 CLSCs, but Quebec says no

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The Legault government has refused to open CLSCs 24 hours a day, seven days a week, as a seniors' coalition requested.

The Coalition Avenir Québec (CAQ) is also refusing another group's demand: recognition of the right to home care.

At a summit on home care held in Quebec City on Wednesday, seniors' group the Coalition pour la dignité des aînés called for CLSCs to be the main entry point for people needing home care and support services. This would enable them to assess needs, provide information on available resources, and recommend the right professional or care and service provider.

Québec solidaire (QS) MNA Christine Labrie brought the group's demand to the floor of the legislature.

"It's a misunderstanding of the vision of CLSCs," said Sonia Bélanger, minister responsible for seniors, during question period.

"CLSCs are there to organize local services in a community. In the word CLSC, there's the C for community, so they're not emergency services, they're not 24/7 emergency services."

QS came back with a privileged motion that echoed the coalition's other demand: adopting a framework law on the maintenance of autonomy, which would set out the right to home care and affordable, adapted housing.

The government refused to debate the motion.

Currently, 90.7 per cent of Quebecers do not have access to home medical services, said Dr. Geneviève Dechêne, a pioneer in home care, during a presentation at home care meeting, the Rendez-vous national sur le maintien à domicile, on Wednesday.

According to her, there are no real health services in living environments, private seniors' residences or intermediate resources, to ensure that seniors remain independent and at home. "It's not surprising, then, that emergency rooms are overflowing with patients," she said.

When it comes to home support, Health and Welfare Commissioner Joanne Castonguay drew up a disturbing balance sheet in a report earlier this year.

The commissioner stated that by 2023, the system was meeting only 10.7 per cent of home support needs: it was providing 25.4 million hours of services, while 234 million hours were required.

The system is therefore far from universal, as advocated by the Health and Welfare Commissioner.

However, Bélanger pointed out that 37 million hours of service were provided in the past year.

She also reported that the waiting list, which stood at 21,000 last year, had been reduced to 16,500 by March 31.

But this is still above the pre-pandemic figures. The number of people waiting for first service had risen from 13,250 on March 31, 2019 to 17,226 on March 31, 2022.

In a press scrum Thursday morning, Liberal MNA Linda Caron said her party was open to discussing the idea of recognizing the right to home support in legislation.

Home support services range from domestic help to babysitting, breakdown services, nutrition, family chores, personal care and more.

The system currently costs $7.6 billion a year, but by 2040, it will cost $16.5 billion, or $8.9 billion a year more.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published in French on May 9, 2024.   

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