At least 150 Quebec long-term care facilities report confirmed COVID-19 cases
MONTREAL -- Quebec's senior-care facilities are struggling under the weight of the COVID-19 pandemic, with at least 150 of them reporting confirmed cases as of Tuesday.
In Montreal, nearly half of COVID-19 deaths have been people living in long-term care facilities. On Tuesday, Premier Francois Legault called the situation alarming and promised to send reinforcements to relieve beleaguered staffs, including transferring some family doctors and nurses.
"We are doing everything we can to protect the elderly," said Health Minister Danielle McCann. "I can assure the families of those people in CHSLDs, no efforts are let go. We are doing everything we can."
Among the hardest hit is a Laval-area long-term care facility where eight peoplehave died from COVID-19 as of Monday, according to local officials.
Local health authorities said the number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the facility stands at 105, with that number including staff members who have tested positive. The facility is home to 174 residents.
In a statement, spokesperson for the CIUSSS-Laval Judith Goudreau said a decision was made on Friday to test all residents of the facility in Ste-Dorothee to get an idea of the size of the outbreak.
Ginette Gagnon, whose 82-year-old father Michel, lives in the residence said answers have been hard to come by. She said she hasn't heard from her father since Thursday and her mother has called repeatedly with no answer, leaving the family worried about Michel's health.
"I tried myself and it was an answering machine, saying leave a message," she said. "I know they're working very hard but it's difficult."
She said the last time she spoke to her father was when someone at the residence helped them videochat. That's when she noticed something disturbing.
"She didn't have any equipment on her, while I suppose he's moving from one room to another," said Gagnon. "She didn't have any mask or anything like that. My sister contacted her and she said 'Tomorrow we're supposed to get some masks.'"
According to the union representing the facility's staff, at least 30 workers have tested positive for the virus.
Staff at the residence weren't given masks or any other protective gear until this past weekend and the ones that did arrive were not the recommended N95s.
"They use normal masks. In the beginning, two weeks ago, they had no eye protection, they had no blouse, to protect themselves," said union vice-president Jean-Francois Houle.
At that time, 36 people at the facility had already tested positive for COVID-19. Since then, 69 others have had their tests come back positive. In a statement on Tuesday, the CIUSSS-Laval said all of the employees of the Ste-Dorothee facility will undergo preventive testing.
"If everybody was getting tested when we asked the bosses two weeks ago to test everybody, nothing would have happened," said Houle.
Gagnon said she doesn't even know if her father is among those with a positive test but that he is sharing a bathroom with another resident who has the virus.
"It's getting worse and worse inside," she said. "We can't have any answers and either we have conflicting information or no information."
A total of 87 CISSS-Laval workers have tested positive for the virus, but no specific numbers were made available for the long-term care facility.
"We have put in place exception measures for an exceptionl situation," said Gourdreau.
Among those measures are moving clinical staff from other facilities to the one in Ste-Dorothee, having two members of an infection prevention and control team on site to ensure preventive measures are being used and making personal protective equipment mandatory for staff during contact with residents.
The union who represents the long-term care staff has filed a complaint with the Workers Health and Safety Board, saying the facility failed to properly protect staff and that since staff often work at more than one facility, they may have aided in the spread of infection.