Pandemic Management: What’s the Score in Quebec?

We’ve been waiting for this, haven’t we? Two years later, almost by the day, the pandemic is fizzling out. Almost. As with the rest of the planet, the health measures put in place by the government authorities have played a yo-yo – on our mental health in particular – and divided the population more than ever. Looking back on the management of the Covid-19 crisis in the province of La Belle.

The “productivity” of pandemic management is hard to put a note on, it is so colossal. What are we really measuring? Access to rapid tests, vaccination rates, the situation in hospitals, the maintenance of DCLC, ventilation in schools and much more? If we ONLY focus on communication, the government will get a good score. What you must remember during a crisis is that information moves quickly and changes just as suddenly. When we make a decision based on the available data and communicate it, the information will have time to mutate (like a virus! too early?) and will no longer be valid. Hence the numerous changes in decision making. And this applies to all organizations. Just imagine when you have to manage a population of over 8 million people! “There have been more difficult situations if we look at nursing homes or hospitals, but I think everyone can agree that Mr. Lego and his public health team did a wonderful job in terms of communications to get the message across,” says Maxim Couturepublic relations consultant Catapult.

UQAM Professor and Specialist in Crisis Management, Yannick Hemond also believes that the information provided to the public was effective. He regrets that there was no continuous learning process, that is, a dedicated team to learn from every wave. This shows us that we are used to dealing with “shocks”. What is meant by shock? For example, flood, earthquake, landslide. These are events that do not last too long in time. In the case of a shock event, the situation stabilizes, then lessons are learned for conducting learning processes. Only this time we have for the first time a crisis of this magnitude, stretching for 2 years. And, most likely, more, the expert believes. The pandemic is not a shock and our normal processes are not meant to be learning in the process. Therefore, a team dedicated to the learning process for all activities would be required. “It couldn’t be perfect either,” says the professor. It was a first for everyone.”

Should we have listened to other specialists? “Of course, we could have had more experts at the same table, but then everyone has opposing statements. I think the number one solution in a crisis like Covid-19 is to stay alive. Yes, there will be huge costs to people’s mental health, economic health, and schools. In the end, there will be decisions that will need to be made, but above all, we had to focus on a common goal, which is to protect the physical health of the population, and I think that the decisions were made in this sense, “states Maxim Couture. However, a public relations expert believes that the government has taken Quebec’s sports federations into account. “I think there have been a lot of people who have been listened to and counseled about resuming sports.”

I’Civil Security Organization of Quebec (OSCQ) it is a mechanism that was not activated during the pandemic, according to Yannick Hemond. As a government entity responsible for civil security at the national level and for coordinating the actions carried out by each government department and agency, it is responsible for managing government risks and responding to natural disasters. Then, when this mechanism is activated, several areas of knowledge are involved. According to the professor, since it has not been officially launched, we have not been able to follow the basic principle of an interdisciplinary approach, which we must uphold. “When we check the crisis unit, as many people as possible gather at the table,” he notes. During the summer lull, we could learn from this, build a multidisciplinary team and listen to what people want, and not approach it only from a political point of view, as was the case. He adds: “Management has focused solely on maintaining the capacity of the health system. We’ve listened to public health scientists and epidemiologists, but we’ve forgotten to listen to people in education, people in mental health, people in economics, people in culture. Behind each of these areas is a whole science that we have not listened to.

What about directives given by the government? Maxim Couture considers that there has been no lack of consistency on the part of the government. “I think it should be welcomed that when the government makes a decision, if it understands that it is not going in the right direction, it changes direction. I would be more afraid of a government that does not adapt to reality, he shares. Could the government have acted faster? The answer is yes. Could he have made a better decision? Yes. Did he go all out with the information when he needed to make a decision? The answer is yes, absolutely.

While it may seem like decisions were made through trial and error, it is the speed and complexity of the crisis that means we have no choice but to make a decision. “And this solution is, by definition, imperfect, but necessary,” shares Yannick Hemond. According to the expert, what the management lacked was a lack of foresight, which was reflected in the sequence. “Over time, the lack of anticipation and the lack of a more measured decision began to play on the sequence, which had a yoyo effect.”