Families worried about Quebec plan to bring COVID-19 patients into homes for elderly
MONTREAL -- Families of patients at a Cote-Saint-Luc care home say they’re worried to hear that COVID-positive patients may be moved to the facility if the need arises.
In a newsletter to families of residents at the Donald Berman Maimonidies and Jewish Eldercare homes, Montreal’s West-Central health authority said it’s planning on creating a new section with dedicated beds for COVID-19 patients from nearby hospitals and private eldercare residences.
“You don’t play Russian roulette with other people’s health,” said Thomas Papa, whose mother has been living at Jewish Eldercare since October 2019.
Maimonides had a very hard time during the first wave of the pandemic, with a number of deaths. Papa said that four people who shared a section with his mother died, and she was infected, too, but survived.
After that experience, he said, he lost confidence in the facility’s ability to keep residents safe. But this week’s move is creating more stress: Papa believes that intentionally bringing in positive cases will invite a new spread of the virus.
Maimonidies confirmed recently it had no cases of COVID-19 among its residents.
A GOVERNMENT DIRECTIVE
But every CIUSSS in Quebec must make beds available to COVID-19 patients, it said in the letter to families, if hospital services become overwhelmed.
“Like every CIUSSS throughout the province, we are required to provide residents in our areas with emergency spaces in a non-traditional site (SNT) such as a long-term care centre,” the letter said.
The president of the FIQ, a union representing many health-care workers, told CTV that creating the new patient overflow space is a government directive.
So far, no COVID-positive patient have yet been been admitted to Maimonides.
The West-Central CIUSSS tried to reassure families with its letter, but many families, including Papa’s, aren’t convinced.
The letter said the beds would only be made available to people in stable condition, who do not require critical care and hospitalization. They may, however, not be able to move home for various reasons.
“We will move COVID-positive individuals who live within our area that our CIUSSS serves, but only as a last resort if the residents cannot safely stay in their own homes,” said the letter.
The idea is that the intermediary spot would free up hospital labour for more critical cases.
'THERE'S ALWAYS THE RISK'
The centre also told families that every precaution will be taken if COVID-positive patients are brought to the facility: they will be housed in areas carefully separated from the rest of the residents, and staff working in the COVID-positive areas will only work in those areas and will have access to elevators that only they can use.
In a statement to CTV, the West-Central CIUSSS said these staff members “should not have any contact with the other residents, caregivers or healthcare teams at Maimonides or Jewish Eldercare.”
Papa said he isn’t feeling reassured by the details, despite the facility’s efforts.
“It makes no sense whatsoever,” he said.
“Staff, when they come in and out, will go through the same entrance, so there’s always the risk of them infecting a surface, and someone else could pick up the virus and spread it around.”
Many residents’ families are feeling the same way. Papa forwarded several letters to CTV written by family members voicing their concerns, including several people whose relatives almost died from COVID-19 earlier this year.
The families said they’re worried for the safety of those residents who survived the first wave, as well as their quality of life.
During the first wave, elderly patients at Maimonides were moved between the facility’s floors in an effort to create hospital-like conditions and prevent infections.
But those changes could also be difficult for their families, who were not made aware of these moves much in advance.
They argued in the letter that COVID-19 patients and elderly residents would be better served by focusing on expanding hospital services, where fewer people would be put at risk.
Watch the video above for CTV's television report from Oct. 22 on a new series of CHSLD outbreaks.