In her 2019-2020 Annual Report released today, Québec Ombudsperson (Protecteur des citoyens) Marie Rinfret describes the shortcomings observed in her investigations of the health and social services network. She speaks out against situations in which people who are among society’s most vulnerable do not get the services they have the right to receive. In many cases, facilities and institutions have long been aware of these major failings. The Ombudsperson exhorts the authorities to start acting.

“Complaints and requests for assistance concerning the health and social services network increased by 26% this year,” Rinfret said.  “What’s more, in many cases, the censured problems are nothing new. Often, they were studied and brought to committees within organizations, but the conclusions reached in the studies and by experts remained on the back burner.”

As the Ombudsperson sees it, the tragedies in CHSLDs (long-term care facilities) from the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic are glaring examples. Who did not know about understaffing and the sorry condition of the resources? The Québec Ombudsman has criticized these failings time and again, but the required corrective measures were never taken.

Examples of persistent failings

  • In some regions, people with mental disorders are excluded from home support programs. One of the reasons is that only their physical capacities are taken into account in assessing their needs.
  • People with dementia are not housed in living environments adapted to their condition. The institutions must do a better job of clarifying the admission requirements for the different resources in order to stop the gap between needs and means.
  • Youth centre staff, especially new employees, lack training, support and supervision. Young people and families can be heavily affected.
  • Québec-born children do not have access to health insurance because of their parents’ precarious migratory status. The Québec Ombudsman points out that this violates the applicable statutes because these children are Canadian citizens and live in Québec.
  • Children who start school are no longer entitled to the speech therapy services they had been getting from the health and social services network. However, the school system only partly picks up the slack.

The three main grounds for substantiated complaints and reports about the health and social services network are:

  • Poor service quality (22.4%);
  • Failure to uphold citizens’ rights (16.6%);
  • Lengthy wait times (14.1%).

In 2019-2020, the Québec Ombudsman intervened regarding:

  • 39 of the 51 health and social services network institutions;
  • 26 of the 92 affiliated institutions;
  • 42 private seniors’ residences;
  • 18 community organizations;
  • 6 pre-hospital emergency services;
  • 3 residential or community resources for vulnerable populations.

Acting impartially and independently, the Québec Ombudsman ensures that the rights of people are upheld in their interactions with public services. Its services are free and user-friendly.

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