Quebec’s former health minister is telling a coroner’s inquest that the province did not massively transfer elderly patients to long-term care homes to free up hospital beds at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Danielle McCann, who was shuffled out of the health portfolio in June 2020, told the inquest Thursday that transfers from hospitals to care homes rose 20 percent in March 2020 compared to the previous month, for a total of fewer than 1,000 transfers.

The Quebec government has faced criticism for its decision to transfer patients from hospitals to understaffed and under-equipped care homes, which were devastated during the first wave of COVID-19.

Dr. Jacques Ramsay, who is assisting coroner Géhane Kamel in her investigation, told McCann that the number of transfers may seem small, but was “significant.”

He says many long-term care homes, known as CHSLDs, would go on to have trouble creating separate zones for infected and non-infected patients because of the high number of residents.

McCann says the government decided that transferring patients to long-term care homes would help protect them from catching COVID-19 in hospitals.

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