Quebec lost nearly $1 billion in COVID-19 protective gear: Auditor General

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Quebec’s unpreparedness and delayed response to the COVID-19 pandemic has cost the province nearly $1 billion in purchases of personal protective equipment, the auditor general said Wednesday.

The government waited too long and then rushed to buy up items such as masks and gloves at high prices, Guylaine Leclerc said in her report released on Wednesday.

By the end of March 2021, the value of equipment purchased by the province had fallen by $938 million, she said. Of this amount, the province lost $671 million in inventory value and an additional $267 million related to equipment contracts and prepaid orders.

“The Ministry of Health has not planned any measures to create an adequate supply of personal protective equipment in the event of a pandemic, such as entering into prior agreements with suppliers or creating a stock,” Leclerc wrote.

“He was therefore forced to urgently buy equipment to protect the population as prices soared.”

Quebec spent $1.4 billion on procedure masks and N95 masks alone, she said.

Leclerc told reporters on Wednesday that the government should have acted more quickly to procure equipment, noting that the first bulk purchases were made on March 22, 2020, despite the province’s first infection being detected. on February 27 of the same year.

“Quebec’s plan against an influenza pandemic was outdated,” Leclerc said in his report. “No measures were put in place to facilitate the provision of personal protective equipment in the event of a pandemic and several employees lacked training on the use of the equipment.”

The auditor’s report notes that the government has filed lawsuits worth $170 million relating to orders for equipment that were never delivered or are defective.

“Faced with the urgency to act, the government’s central supply chain did not always verify the integrity of suppliers and the quality of personal protective equipment, which contributed to losses of nearly 15 million dollars,” Leclerc said.

“Good management requires good planning.”

Premier Francois Legault on Wednesday dismissed criticism of the report.

He said it was easy to “rewrite history”, adding that his government had done what it could.

Health Minister Christian Dube, meanwhile, defended the government, saying the pandemic was unprecedented.

“We learned a lot from the first wave, which took everyone by surprise,” Dube said in a statement. “That’s why we put a plan in place for the second wave, which included having a four to six month supply of personal protective equipment.”


This report from The Canadian Press was first published on May 11, 2022.

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