Montreal

L'Isle-Verte tragedy prompts Quebec to change certification standards for seniors' homes

The Quebec government has eased the standards for senior residences to allow some of them to retain their certification.

Government to allow cheaper criminal checks, ensure seniors don't lose access for economic reasons

A police investigator searches through the frozen rubble of the Résidence du Havre in L'Isle-Verte, Que. The Quebec government is changing certification rules for seniors' homes following a coroner's report. (Ryan Remiorz/Canadian Press)

Months after a Quebec coroner released a report into the l'Isle-Verte tragedy where 32 people died in a fire that swept through a seniors' home, the Quebec government announced Tuesday that it has eased the standards for senior residences, allowing some of them to retain their certification.

Many residences were threatened with closure because they lacked funds to train their staff thereby jeopardizing their certifications.

The new rules also ensure that seniors won't lose access to residences for economic reasons, Health Minister Gaétan Barrette said.

The government is doubling the number categories of elderly homes. For example, one new category would allow volunteers to work at the seniors' homes, thereby reducing the operating costs of some residences.

There are currently only two categories: one for autonomous and one for semi-autonomous people.

The new categories will be:

  • Category 1: residences with basic services
  • Category 2: residences with basic services and distribution of drugs
  • Category 3: services with personal assistance and medication services
  • Category 4: residences with nursing care

New safety requirements

The safety requirements of a residence will correspond to its classification. Barrette stressed that most residences that lost their certifications fell under the first category.

Homes with fewer than 50 residents offering basic services to autonomous people will have meals, recreation, supervision and housekeeping services.

These first-category homes will be supervised by volunteers. No training will be required for them.

Homes with more than 50 residents should have an in-house employee certified in first aid and cardiopulmonary resuscitation. Homes with 200 residents and more will have two qualified employees on site.

"Our previous rules resulted in decertification because the cost was not absorbable by either the owner or by the client," Barrette said.

The second category will have a drug distribution service without the need for nursing services. Eighty-two residences fit this definition.

All staff should have training in first aid and resuscitation in the third and fourth categories. Both categories also include medication services.

Criminal checks

Criminal checks will now be permitted on job applicants,  and they will be cheaper than in the old system.

"Previously, the regulations required a police check. We will now allow an audit by private organizations, which can detect problems, costs much less and work much faster than we expected," Barrette said.

The change in classification of retirement homes comes in the wake of a report by Coroner Cyrille Delage on the L'Isle-Verte tragedy.

There are some 1,900 retirement homes in Quebec.

'A step in the right direction'

The Quebec network of non-profit housing associations (RQOH), which represents 1,200 organizations offering 50,000 housing units, welcomed the proposed changes.

"The project … shows a much better approach to the reality of housing non-profits and is certainly a step in the right direction," said Stéphan Corriveau, the CEO of the organization.

However, the lack of financial assistance to help residents with the costs of these new standards troubles the organization.

"Eighty per cent of our tenants earn less than $20,000 a year, and they simply cannot pay higher rents," said Isabelle Leduc, president of RQOH. She is asking the government to support homes that will be financially squeezed by the new measures.

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