A lawsuit alleges that the province of Québec left long-term care facilities vulnerable at the onset of COVID-19, resulting in thousands of preventable deaths among the elderly.
A class-action lawsuit against Québec alleges that they failed to implement an existing pandemic-response plan as early as January 2020.
The lead plaintiff, Jean-Pierre Daubois, argues his mother, Anna José Maquet, 94, died from insufficient care at the Ste-Dorothée long-term care centre in Laval that April, reported the CBC.
He said Maquet, despite suffering from an age-related eye disorder and requiring assistance to move around, had good health otherwise.
Unfortunately, she passed away after choking on water. Staff attempted to put her on respiratory distress protocol upon discovery three hours later but to no avail.
According to the lawsuit, an unlicensed nursing candidate routinely cared for Maquet and allegedly administered treatments without proper authorization.
"We want the Québec government to be held accountable for the non-preparation," Daubois told reporters. "There was gross incompetence on their part, [and] we want this to change."
Maquet's son constitutes one of the thousands of plaintiffs that could surmise 10,000 total for over a hundred million dollars in compensation.
Montreal lawyer Patrick Martin-Ménard, who filed the suit on behalf of patients and their relatives in Québec Superior Court, contends the province and its health authorities breached their duty of care to long-term care residents.
"There was a plan in place since 2006 […], and this plan included a number of measures that could be put in place to protect vulnerable people," Martin-Ménard told reporters on September 18.
Despite knowing of COVID's presence since January 6, 2020, the Montreal lawyer claims the province began pandemic preparations in late February.
And even then, he argued that their initial directives did not refer to residents of long-term care facilities and vulnerable people, leading to disastrous consequences for the province.
Between March 2020 and March 2021, over 5,000 patients died in long-term care facilities across the province, some of which could have been prevented with adequate care and preparation.
"What we are alleging here is that if this plan had been activated, as it should have been in January 2020, we would probably have avoided the outbreaks," said Martin-Ménard.
In court, he claimed the government improvised their pandemic response by transferring hospital patients to long-term care facilities to free hospital beds.
At the time, these centres allegedly lacked sufficient capacity to handle additional patients and could not properly care for residents after the government banned visits from family caregivers, said Martin-Ménard.
One such patient died following the ban's implementation after her daughter, whom she relied on for feedings, could no longer visit her.
"All of this had very significant consequences, not only for the people who got COVID-19 but also for the people who were severely affected by the deprivation of care they had as a result," said the Montreal lawyer.
Government lawyers did not respond to requests for comment by the CBC at the time of publication.