Quebec allows four people per room in nursing homes, against coroner’s recommendations

MONTREAL – Quebec’s decision to allow long-term care centers to house up to four residents per room will put people at risk without freeing up hospital beds, a patient advocate says.

The new Health Ministry directive aims to reduce long-term care waiting lists and ease pressure on hospitals. But Paul Brunet, chairman of the Council for the Protection of the Sick, says housing up to four residents per room will increase their risk of catching COVID-19 and other illnesses, such as C. difficile, and he says that would make it more likely. residents should be hospitalized.

Additionally, he says he is concerned that COVID-19 outbreaks will lead to increased long-term care home closures.

“We’re going to lose people with different infections and we’re going to lose them psychologically because we’re going back to self-isolation, which has been a tragedy for a lot of seniors,” he said in an interview on Monday.

In a July 21 letter to long-term care facilities, the Department of Health told managers they could reopen beds that had been closed during the COVID-19 pandemic — as an “exceptional” measure — in rooms with sufficient space and containing a toilet.

But the directive flies in the face of recommendations made last spring by coroner Géhane Kamel, who investigated the high number of deaths in the province’s long-term care homes during the first wave of the pandemic. Kamel said in his final report that Quebec should ensure residential care facilities are able to offer single rooms to patients to prevent the transmission of COVID-19 and other illnesses.

Brunet says the new Department of Health policy also conflicts with national standards and with recommendations made by the province’s public health department more than a decade ago. Both have called for long-term care homes to have single-occupancy rooms.

Jean-Charles Del Duchetto, spokesman for the province’s seniors minister, said Monday that nearly 4,300 people were waiting for places in long-term care facilities. Many of those people are waiting in hospitals, he said.

“We must allow these people to receive the care and services they need,” he wrote in an email. “(Long-term care centers) are better suited than hospitals in this regard. Although it is not ideal, the reopening of rooms for multiple occupancy… under certain conditions is an avenue to consider in the circumstances.

Del Duchetto said the Quebec government is working to eliminate double-occupancy rooms in long-term care homes, but he said it will take time. About 2,600 more beds will be added to the system this fall, he said.

Brunet said many seniors who are in Quebec hospitals could be cared for at home if the province devotes more resources to home care. “You haven’t solved the problem of patients going to the hospital and packing up the emergency departments because they have no other alternative.”

The Department of Health said the policy is a temporary measure. In the letter to long-term care managers, the ministry said the policy will be in effect until replaced by a new directive.

This report from The Canadian Press was first published on August 22, 2022.

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