A class-action lawsuit has been approved by a judge in Quebec, accusing the province's health network of failing to protect long-term care centers during the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic. The lawsuit claims that the province's response to the first two waves of the virus was improvised, and that health network officials ignored a pre-existing pandemic plan until it was too late.
The lawyer representing the class action, Patrick Martin-Menard, stated that the Quebec government had all the necessary tools to protect the most vulnerable but failed to do so. The lawsuit includes anyone living in 118 public long-term care centers that experienced a COVID-19 outbreak infecting at least 25% of residents between March 13, 2020, and March 20, 2021. It also includes surviving spouses, children, and grandchildren of residents.
According to Martin-Menard, the lawsuit is estimated to include between 6,000 and 7,000 long-term care residents, as well as an unknown number of family members. The representative plaintiff, Jean-Pierre Daubois, lost his mother, Anna Jose Maquet, in April 2020 at the Sainte-Dorothee long-term care center. Daubois believes that her death was caused by a respiratory distress protocol that was implemented after she choked on water. Over 100 residents at the facility died during the outbreak.
Daubois expressed his desire to prevent the "improvisation" of Quebec's pandemic response from being repeated and stated that he believes the outbreak at his mother's care center was avoidable. The lawsuit alleges that the neglect of Quebec's long-term care network in the early days of the pandemic led to a series of negligent practices and poor decision-making by public health authorities.
The lawsuit names several defendants, including the Sainte-Dorothee long-term care center, 20 regional health authorities, and the province's attorney general. The lawsuit seeks compensation for infected residents, hospitalized residents, residents who did not receive necessary care due to labor shortages, and surviving family members. Additionally, the suit is requesting punitive damages on behalf of residents.
The Quebec government has argued that the class action is too broad and that the allegations may only apply to the Sainte-Dorothee long-term care center and the first wave of the pandemic. The Health Department declined to comment on the case.