MONTREAL -- The crisis in Quebec's senior care facilities, over 150 of which have been hit by COVID-19, has been years in the making, according to advocates and union leaders.

Denyse Joseph, vice-president of the FIQ, said many residences have been understaffed for years and what staff are working are missing the tools to do their jobs safely.

“In general, right now with this pandemic crisis, they all have the same issue with protective equipment,” she said. “There's none available or barely any available. So this is a big issue for our healthcare professionals.”

Joseph said without proper equipment, healthcare workers can easily become infected with COVID-19 and then spread it to other patients and staff, as well as their own families.


“They are elderly, they are sick and they need to be taken care of,” she said. “They need safe and quality care right now. I think this isn't the case.”

Patient rights advocate Paul Brunet called for a coroner's inqust into all deaths at longterm care facilities since the beginning of March.

“We asked an independent authority to look into these deaths before it's too late. If ever the coronavirus was involved in more deaths than was declared, we'll have the right figures from this independent authority,” he said.

The Quebec government announced on Saturday that 31 residents of a West Island facility had died in just a matter of weeks. Some reports described disgusting conditions in the Maison Herron, including some residents being malnourished, dehydrated or covered in feces. A police investigation is underway and Health Minister Danielle McCann said inspectors would be sent to all 40 of Quebec's private seniors homes.

“It will be corrected because the first thing to do is verify all the private CHSLDs and we're going to get a report. I want all the families to be contacted,” she said.

Brunet said he hopes the province's long-term care facilities don't see a repeat of 2018's heat wave, which left dozens of people dead, many of which were falsely declared to be of natural causes.