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Photo: James Morgan

Québec launching coroner’s investigation into long-term care COVID-19 deaths

Québec Chief Coroner, Pascale Descary, has ordered a major public inquiry into certain deaths that occurred during the COVID-19 pandemic in long-term care facilities (CHSLD), private seniors’ residences and other accommodation for vulnerable people or those who cannot live independently.   This entirely public process will allow the Québec population to be informed of the facts raised during the hearings and to follow the reflections on the issue.

Coroner and lawyer Géhane Kamel was appointed to preside over the inquiry. Given the complexity of the subject and the large number of deaths, a coroner with medical training, Dr. Jacques Ramsay, will be appointed to assist Kamel throughout the process.

Coroners intervene in cases of violent, obscure deaths that could be linked to negligence. Deaths outside these definitions, including those that resulted solely from a coronavirus infection, are not investigated by the coroners.

To be analyzed as part of the investigation, the selected deaths must meet the following criteria:

  • The death occurred while the person was living in a CHSLD, private seniors’ residence or a place of accommodation for vulnerable people or people who have lost their autonomy.
  • The death occurred during the period from March 12 to May 1, 2020.
  • The death was the subject of a notice to the coroner because of its violent, obscure nature or because it is possibly linked to negligence.

Kamel is already responsible for investigating the deaths at CHSLD Herron in Dorval, which will form the basis of this investigation. The analysis will therefore focus first on the facts surrounding the deaths recorded in that facility. Subsequently, Kamel and her team will select deaths in several types of residences and in several regions in order to draw a representative portrait of the situation at the provincial level.

When the causes and circumstances of each death have been established, Kamel will be able to broaden the reflection on the subject, in particular by hearing witnesses and privileged actors in the accommodation of elderly people in Québec. These steps will ultimately allow Kamel to make recommendations to avoid further deaths and protect human life.

Investigator Dave Kimpton has been appointed to assist Me Kamel. He will be assisted by Me Julie Roberge.

Details of this investigation and the date of the first hearings will be released later.