Not seeking another mandate is what passes for accountability in Quebec in the face of serious systemic failures.
Long before coroner Géhane Kamel presented the results of her investigation Monday into the deaths of 47 patients at Herron’s private nursing home during the first wave of COVID-19, it was clear she would make a scathing indictment of the pandemic response. of the government. She left no stone unturned – fighting with witnesses, remembering others to explain inconsistencies, cite documents, trying to establish who knew what when in the upper echelons of power as frail elderly residents were left starving, dehydrated, unwashed and in dirty diapers both before and after public officials found out of the terrible conditions.
After her vague and contradictory testimony drew attention, then-health minister Danielle McCann announced that she will not seek re-election this fall. Ditto for Marguerite Blais, the minister for the elderly and long-term care, who came off sick leave to offer her version of events to the coroner.
Were they simply burnt, or was it Prime Minister François Legault’s subtle way of cleaning the decks before the fall elections? The rolling of heads would be too close to an admission of guilt with the opposition clamoring for a full-fledged public investigation. It is better to let troublesome ministers quietly retire.
Now it is the turn of Lynne McVey, executive director of the West Island CIUSSS, to announce that she will not seek a renewal of her term when it expires in July. She issued a brief statement a day after Kamel’s report questioned her motives and criticized CIUSSS’s mismanagement of Herron once the health agency stepped in to wrest control of the facility from its private owners.
Is McVey leaving voluntarily, or has a government trying to contain the fallout of this shameful tragedy forced her to fall on her sword? Defending the ministers against him earlier, Prime Minister François Legault mentioned that the CIUSSS had assured them that everything was under control in Herron. And on Tuesday, in Laval, Legault said that the chief executives of health authorities are supposed to have control over what happens on the ground.
“This was not the case with CHSLD Herron,” he said.
That’s probably the clearest answer we’ll get as to whether McVey is being thrown under the bus.
This is not entirely fair. To give McVey the benefit of the doubt, the Herron was just one more understaffed and ill-equipped institution that McVey was responsible for along with hospitals like Lakeshore, St. Mary’s, and Douglas during a chaotic period of widespread unpreparedness in the health system
But his undoing was his disingenuous actions after the Montreal Gazette’s Aaron Derfel first broke the story of the deplorable conditions at the Herron on April 10, 2020. In the early hours of April 11, with a crisis communications expert At his side, McVey called 911 asking for police to investigate the deaths at the Herron. He did so with the foreknowledge and blessing of senior Health Ministry officials who praised his proactivity, text messages filed with the coroner show.
In his emergency call, as well as in a press conference the following day, McVey hinted that private ownership of the nursing home was not only to blame for the rising body count, but that some of the deaths may not have been related to COVID. -19. It was a cynical attempt to deflect responsibility that did not make it clear that the health authority had been present at the Herron since March 29 or that the owners had in fact been begging the CIUSSS for help.
In his own reaction to the calamity at Herron when it broke, Legault came to lament the possibility of criminal negligence.
Charges were never filed.
Whether this clever finger-pointing attempt was just McVey’s idea, it certainly provided cover for his political masters at the time. Now that she makes them look bad, she’s taking the blame.
This is what accountability looks like in Quebec without blame. If there is any repercussion when the system breaks, it is not clear, it is applied with a lack of transparency and it is divorced from any recognition of wrongdoing. And the higher the official, the less likely he is to face consequences.
Even as Legault emphasized the importance of accountability in his own office, cabinet and government, on Tuesday, he also made it clear where the responsibility stops.
“The prime minister and the minister of health cannot control what happens in all the health institutions in Quebec,” he said. “If someone doesn’t drive well, we have to replace the manager.”
Hanes: Why didn’t care improve after CIUSSS took over Herron?
Hanes: Alarm bells rang for at least 10 days before Herron exposure