MONTREAL -- Montreal caregivers are still waiting to get back to work, despite assurances from Quebec Premier Francois Legault they'd be allowed back into the province's long-term care facilities.

On Tuesday, staff at the Alfred-Desrochers long-term care home were given a memo stating caregivers wouldn't be allowed back into the residence until further notice. That memo was posted to the regional health authority's website on Thursday and said the decision to delay caregivers' return was reached “after performing a risk assessment with public health and the infection control team.”

In total, caregivers are still not permitted into 17 facilities.

“They're giving these people the death penalty,” said caregiver Gisele Vanloo. Vanloo cared for Nancy Newton for six years until Newton's death earlier this month.

Newton had tested negative for COVID-19.

“People aren't being fed, they're dying, they're not being washed anymore. They're lying in whatever they're not taking us back in. They're not letting the people who can take care of them back in and that's a problem,” said Vanloo.

Patients' rights advocate Paul Brunet called the decision not to allow caregivers into residences a human rights abuse.

“Now we're in deep trouble and maybe if we don't aloow them, with all the protection required and testing required, we're goign to have more people dying not of COVID, but of neglect,” he said.

Health Minister Danielle McCann acknowledged the spread of COVID-19 has been worse in Montreal than other parts of the province but that flexibility is required when it comes to allowing caregivers into CHSLDs. But Quebec Caregivers Assocation spokesperson Josee Cotre said more communication is necessary.

“Now there are a lot of people volunteering to give a hand and at least if they could make a phone call every day just to inform them of what's goin on with their loved ones,” she said.