Nurses at Laval seniors residence with COVID-19 outbreak say working conditions are dangerous
MONTREAL -- Nurses who've been brought in to help care for residents at a Laval long-term care centre where eight people have died from COVID-19 are saying working conditions are putting their safety at risk.
Nearly half of the residents in the CHSLD de Sainte-Dorothée have tested positive for COVID-19, for a total of 105 positive results, the Centre integre de sante et de services sociaux de Laval (CISSS) announced Tuesday.
Emergency nurses from Cité-de-la-Santé were brought in to help handle the outbreak, two of which, who wish to remain anonymous, voiced concerns about working conditions at the centre.
"We went there, we had no orientation," one nurse said. "We had no communication about where the medications were... Where the equipments were. We don't have any equipment, we need to wear the same mask, the same gowns, the same gloves between each patient."
Another nurse said when she asked for an N95 mask, she was told she would have to buy one herself.
Public health officials aren't sure what caused the outbreak at Sainte-Dorothée, but they think infected employees or visitors who showed no symptoms may be the reason. Two other long-term care facilities in Laval have 17 residents each who’ve tested positive. There have been seven deaths the CHSLD La Pinière, and one death at the CHSLD Fernand-Larocque.
“We, public health, don’t know what exactly happened (at Sainte-Dorothée),” CISSS Laval communications director Judith Goudreau said of the outbreak. “This virus is problematic, in the sense that we can be carriers without knowing it. That could have been the case with employees with no symptoms who came to work, or visitors also who came to the centre, so it’s a very particular situation.”
The CISSS said measures have been put in place to limit the virus from spreading further, such as confining people to their rooms, testing all employees and making sure government protocols are being followed.
“Everyone who helps the residents have to have a very strict protocol, when they go into the rooms they have all the protective equipment, they take it off when they get out of the room,” Goudreau told CTV early Wednesday morning. “There’s a whole team that’s there to ensure that the virus won’t spread and that the employees will be protected.”
“Before visits were banned, visitors could have not had symptoms,” Goudreau said of the outbreak. “We don’t have the answer.”
In Quebec's daily press briefing on Wednesday, Minister of Health Danielle McCann said they're in the process of adding staff – doctors and nurses – to CHSLDs across the province to better organize care. The goal is to divide centres by "cold zones" and "hot zones," so certain staff will be assigned to parts of the residences that don't have outbreaks, and others to sections that do. This will limit the spread of the virus and protect both employees and residents, McCann said.
In addition to being concerned about their own safety, nurses are worried about residents who are stranded, by themselves, in the centres.
"We are very heartbroken because those people are dying alone with no service and in pain, the families, they can't come and see their family members on their last moments," a nurse said.
The CISSS Laval said it's setting up a special team dedicated to communicating with residents’ family members during the pandemic. Updates on cases in their facilities are expected Wednesday afternoon.