The bad trial of Marguerite Blais

You remember ? Hospitals were emptied of as many elderly patients as possible to be dumped in CHSLDs.

Posted at 6:00 a.m.

One person, only one, in the Legault government was “screaming” to stop it: Marguerite Blais.

No, you don’t remember, and neither do I. Nobody saw it, nobody knew about it.

So, two years later, she’s the incompetent in chief. The one who would have been “warned” of the CHSLD Herron tragedy, but “did nothing”.

It’s wrong, it’s unfair, but it’s convenient.

After a week of exaggerated attacks in the National Assembly (a Quebec “Watergate”, just that!), a government source leaked the news: Marguerite Blais will not stand for re-election. No surprise here. At 71, already shattered by the pandemic, we expected it. We will not have left her a small remnant of political dignity for her to announce it herself.

It will not be the first in Quebec that someone has thrown under a bus. Still lucky that the tram project is not finished.

Think What You Want by Marguerite Blais. There is one thing we cannot attack him on: the transfer of patients to CHSLDs at the start of the pandemic. This decision contributed to making Quebec the place in Canada where the most deaths were deplored.

More than 5060this necessary book which has just been published by Katia Gagnon, Ariane Lacoursière and Gabrielle Duchaine⁠1it is clear that the “Minister of Seniors” had nothing to do with it. Better: she fought with her director of cabinet Pascale Fréchette to prevent it.

“If it hadn’t been for Marguerite Blais and Pascale Fréchette, we would have lost even more time before realizing that something was happening. [dans les CHSLD] “, recognized in this book Jonathan Valois, former chief of staff of Danielle McCann at Health – she also fired unceremoniously.

Mme Fréchette knows the network like no one else, and when she learned that these massive transfers were taking place, she sounded the alarm as much as she could. Marguerite Blais “screamed” as much as a minister without real power could do.

Because in this formidable system, the CHSLDs come under Health. The Minister for the Elderly, sorry, for the Elders, can scream, she decides nothing. She figures.

Let’s forget about Marguerite Blais for a moment.

What happened in the CHSLDs, this carnage that my colleagues document, do you really believe that it would have been avoided if another party had been in power?

In such an enormous, absolute emergency, the government relies on its machine. What did the machine say? We must save the hospitals.

Either to free up beds, which is perfectly defensible given what was happening in Europe and New York.

Or to get out of the most vulnerable hospitals to send them “safely” to CHSLDs. The virus then arrived by plane, and the sick were going to fill the hospitals quickly. It was not in itself ill-advised to take out the most vulnerable.

We now know that these transfers took the virus to 274 under-equipped establishments, in short supply of everything, and above all of manpower. We know now that we shouldn’t have done that, at least not like that.

But with a minimum of memory and intellectual honesty, one cannot pretend that one knew from the start what catastrophe was happening.

The Liberals, the PQ, Québec solidaire: they would have followed the same advice in those first fateful weeks. If I remember correctly, they didn’t raise their hands to tell us how to do better at that time.

I don’t blame them either. But we forget how quickly death spread, and how these few decisions had catastrophic consequences.

In 2003, there were 42,000 places in CHSLDs. Ten years later, in the first liberal political incarnation of Mme Blais, there were 38,000.

Places were so short that we closed our eyes to all the Herrons in the network. This minority of private centers ranging from mediocre to rotten, instead of being closed, were “accompanied”. People were badly treated, badly cared for, badly medicated – at least 10 deaths per year due to neglect between 1998 and 2018.

Still there, 5060 documents the mechanics very well: you have to “cut” hospital beds, so send them to accommodation centres. So we do with the Herrons.

This whole system of neglect and underfunding has been built up over decades. When the pandemic broke out, the Coalition avenir Québec had been in power for 15 months. But the problem has existed for 30 years. And I, like you (no, not you, I know), looked away as often as possible when the subject surfaced.

So I don’t mind that Marguerite Blais has not reinvented the big wheel of benevolence towards seniors. I want to believe that she had the naivety or the pretension to sell reforms that she did not have the means to deliver, or that she should have known. She was a front minister for a second party and accepted it. We can surely reproach him for having pushed ministerial solidarity to the point of conveniently forgetting everything in front of the coroner, when she had just given several details to my colleagues. Funny a little to hear him say that everything has become blurred “like an impressionist canvas”. In principle, among the Impressionists, the further one moves away from the work, the clearer the portrait…

Nevertheless: for this end, that of the first weeks of the pandemic, she did what a minister without power could: shout, say things.

Yeah, but that “emergency” email sent to the minister’s office on March 30 about Herron? The head of the CIUSSS said that “everything was under control”. It was totally wrong.

But at the same time, in just a few days, in April, there were fatal outbreaks in 274 CHSLDs. Was the minister supposed to put on a jumpsuit and inspect this specifically atrocious CHSLD herself?

If we want to do this trial, we will have to be a big gang in the dock.

1. 5060 – the carnage of COVID-19 in our CHSLDsboreal

Leave a Comment