MONTREAL -- For weeks, residents of Quebec’s long-term care homes who were hospitalized with COVID-19 have not been allowed back to long-term care.

That’s changing now, but some are worried the move will create too big a risk in an already fragile situation with many moving parts.

“We already have a problem managing, you know, hot zones to cold zones—personnel not in sufficient number having to walk around and change zones,” said patients’ rights advocate Paul Brunet on Wednesday.

“Sick patients should be treated in the hospital.”

Right now, it’s hard to imagine how bringing more elderly patients back to long-term care homes will make things better, he said.

These sorts of patient transfers stopped in April after a decision by provincial government. 

Now the government says it’s reversing the move, but has a new set of directives about where patients should go when they leave hospital, depending if they’re infected or not.

“If someone has been sick, has had the disease and doesn’t have it anymore, and has to be transferred, we put him or her in a cold zone,” said Deputy Premier Geneviève Guilbault on Wednesday.

“This is obvious, to make sure there is no contamination,” she said. “So those are procedures that are being put in place to make sure that people who don’t need to be in hospitals anymore can go back.”

Eliane Rozga’s brother, Paul, tested positive for the virus three weeks ago. He’d been living at the Maimonides long-term care centre in Cote-St-Luc, but when his condition worsened he was transferred to the Jewish General Hospital.

Now he’s stable and set to go back, but his sister is anxious about it.

“I’m not out of the woods, as far as not being worried. I’m just not,” she said.

Maimonides is accepting back anyone who was previously a patient, she said. But the former head nurse on her brother’s floor has since been transferred, and she worries about what things will be like when he returns. 

“Without the team leader... it's like going to war without a general and saying to soldiers, ‘Okay, go and fight,’” she said.

Maimonides is currently in the middle of a big outbreak, with 77 positive cases and 12 deaths as of Tuesday evening.

While the government wants to see patients discharged, it doesn’t have the final say. Each case will ultimately be up to the regional health authorities.