MONTREAL - As the widow of one victim of the legionnaires’ disease outbreak spoke out against the provincial government Thursday – accusing authorities of “criminal negligence” – Public Security Minister Robert Dutil announced that he has called for a coroner’s inquiry to investigate the crisis.
“I have asked the chief coroner to hold a public inquiry into the sad events of the last few weeks,” Dutil said. “Out of respect for those who have died and their families, the coroner (Dr. Louise Nolet) must shed light on those events.”
Dutil made those remarks moments before Solange Allen and her lawyer spoke to reporters outside the Quebec City courthouse.
Allen’s husband, Claude Desjardins, died of legionnaires’ disease on Aug. 19. His was the fourth declared death from the outbreak that has killed nine people and infected 132 others in the provincial capital.
Allen recounted how her husband first felt flu-like symptoms on Aug. 14, but was administered antibiotics only four days later in a hospital. He died the following day.
“When we first went to see our doctor, no one told us that my husband might have legionnaires’ disease,” she said. “Even though there was an outbreak and three people had already died, no one from the Health Department informed us. The Health Department should have sent letters to people’s homes advising us of this situation. This wasn’t done.
“Had we known of the outbreak at the time, and had my husband been given antibiotics immediately, he might be alive today.
“This is very much a case of criminal negligence,” Allen added.
The Health Department did issue a news release about the outbreak on July 31. But it did not send notices to homeowners, and authorities waited until the third week of August to hold daily news conferences on the outbreak.