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Quebec Health Minister Danielle McCann responds to a question during a news conference in Montreal, on May 15, 2020.Paul Chiasson/The Canadian Press

A Quebec patients’ rights group urged the province to respect the fundamental rights of seniors living in care facilities during the COVID-19 pandemic, as the province reported 79 more deaths.

In a letter dated Friday and addressed to Health Minister Danielle McCann and Seniors Minister Marguerite Blais, the Conseil pour la protection des malades said it has received hundreds of complaints from patients and citizens in connection with the confinement measures imposed on vulnerable seniors.

The letter, signed by lawyer Paul Brunet, said COVID-19 confinement measures do not mean patients can be stripped of their fundamental rights to life, freedom of movement, security and dignity.

That includes access to medical treatment, being allowed to leave with precautions in place, not being housed with infected people, being fed, changed and given water, and not being forced to die “alone, abandoned and without dignity,” the letter said.

The group also called on the province to provide a safe environment for caregivers, to allow surgeries and medical procedures to resume, and to inspect and clean the ventilation systems of establishments to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

It also says patients and rights committees have the right to know how many people are infected at their establishments.

“Faced with numerous reports of negligence and abuse, it is urgent that authorities give access to one or more members of users’ committees or residents to be able to once again defend the collective rights of users,” the letter read.

“To do this, you must immediately re-establish communications between authorities and committees, and access to units, as usually granted.”

Quebec reported 79 new deaths due to COVID-19 on Sunday, bringing the province’s total to 3,562. Over 80 per cent of the province’s deaths have been linked to long-term care or private seniors’ homes.

The government has put out a 14-page list of long-term care homes and residences that have been affected by the novel coronavirus, including 26 residences judged “critical,” with more than a quarter of residents infected.

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