New provincial funding dedicated to hygiene care will ensure residents of long-term care facilities have access to two baths or showers a week, Quebec's government announced Wednesday.
The $36 million will go toward hiring additional employees or paying overtime to existing staff to provide the extra bath and shower to those among the 40,000 Quebecers in publicly funded long-term care homes, known as CHSLDs, who want it and whose conditions allow for it.
"The capacity that we're offering, $36 million, will translate into the hiring of 600 full-time attendants," Quebec's Health Minister Gaétan Barrette said.
Barrette was accompanied at Wednesday's announcement by Francine Charbonneau, Quebec's Minister responsible for Seniors.
The announcement follows numerous complaints from CHSLD residents, families and the government's political opposition that one bath a week was inadequate and even inhumane.
In one case, the family of a resident living in a long-term care centre in Montreal complained that she had not been given a full bath in nine months and was only given one sponge bath a week.
Another man with multiple sclerosis launched a crowdfunding campaign last year to raise money for additional weekly showers at his CHSLD in Quebec City, a situation he called "humiliating."
It also emerged that some health care workers were charging families for an extra bath outside of their scheduled work hours.
Funding responds to 'needs of population'
Barrette said the new funding responds to "the needs of the population, and the desires of the population."
He said it was important to underline that not everyone is capable of having two baths a week.
"Some patients, some residents, because of their clinical state, can be extremely destabilized by a bath," Barrette said.
The health minister said the funds come from $304 million in annual savings that the province achieved through a recent agreement with the pharmaceutical industry on generic drugs.
The news was welcomed by a coalition of 600 health system user groups, the RPCU.
"Residents want better quality of life," said RPCU executive director Pierre Blain. "A second bath per week responds to those concerns."
The CSN, one of the province's largest labour unions, called the announcement a "victory for the whole population."
In a news release, the union blamed austerity measures brought in by the Liberal government after their 2014 election victory for the lack of hygiene care in the CHSLD system.
"The government acknowledged today that it went way too far with its budget cuts and must now plug the holes," CSN president Jacques Létourneau said.