Patients rights group hopes to sue Quebec over deteriorating CHSLD conditions

Quebec's long-term care facilities are failing to meet their duties of care by allowing residents to languish in unhygienic conditions, says a patients rights group seeking to sue the provincial government.

The lawsuit, which is seeking court approval, says system deprives residents of charter rights

The lawsuit alleges that residents at CHSLDs are having to pay for soap, laundry services, shampoo and other basic necessities.

Quebec's long-term care facilities are failing to meet their duties of care by allowing residents to languish in unhygienic conditions, says a patients rights group seeking to sue the provincial government. 

The Quebec Council for the Protection of Patients has filed an application for a class-action lawsuit that targets all the government-run care facilities (CHSLDs) in the province, which house around 37,000 people.

Paul Brunet, who chairs the council, says over the last few years patient care at CHSLDs has declined significantly, and patients are no longer able to access services on par with those most Quebecers have access to at home. 

That, he said, is a violation of provincial law as well as rights protected by the Quebec Charter Human Rights and Freedoms. "We have decided to not let it go this time."

If approved, the lawsuit would demand the government pay each CHSLD resident up to $850 dollars a month as compensation.

'Dignity, honour and reputation'

Daniel Pilote, a 56-year-old with muscular dystrophy, is the lead plaintiff in the lawsuit application.   

He has lived in a Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu CHSLD for the past four years. In court documents, he claims medical staff at the facility are overworked and their numbers are dwindling.

Pilote, who is paralyzed from the head down, relies on breathing apparatus to live and says he fears there is not enough staff on hand to help him if the machine fails.

He also alleges that personnel at his care facility have only ten minutes to wash and dress him each morning. As a result of this treatment, Pilote's "dignity, honour and reputation" is being violated, lawsuit application reads.

Brunet blames the decline in quality of care at CHSLDs, in part, on health reforms passed in 2015, which sought to cut managerial positions in an attempt to save the health care system $200 million dollars per year.

Government says CHSLD conditions improving

Government officials responded to the lawsuit by insisting the reforms actually improved the services offered in CHSLDs.

"Never has a government invested so much to improve the quality of life of people who live there," a spokesperson for the Health Ministry said in a statement Tuesday.

In comments to reporters, Premier Philippe Couillard added that his government has worked hard to improve hygiene, food and staffing conditions at government-run long-term care facilities.

"[Are conditions] better? Yes. Could they be even better? Yes," Couillard said. "I'm not saying they're perfect, far from it, but I think we are headed in the right direction."

With files from CBC Montreal's Daybreak


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