Quebec’s ombudsperson is launching an “impartial and independent” investigation into the handling of the novel coronavirus health crisis in embattled nursing homes by the province and its health network.

Marie Rinfret said in a statement on Tuesday the probe comes as she has concerns over the situation unfolding in seniors residences and the measures implemented to protect the elderly from COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus.

Rinfret said the “current crisis is happening in living environments that were vulnerable to begin with and where there were known problems that were often criticized” by her office.

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“These include a glaring shortage of staff, difficult work conditions because of this shortage, a high turnover rate for care attendants and insufficient oversight of private residences by the public network,” she said.

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The investigation will specifically look at the role of Quebec’s health and social services ministry and certain public health institutions in the province. Rinfret will investigate their responses to the pandemic in seniors residences.

Quebec has the highest number of cases and deaths attributable to COVID-19 in the country.

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