Opinion: We must save Fulford Residence, an essential resource for Montreal's English community
Published Saturday, March 6, 2021 8:00AM EST
MONTREAL -- Fulford Residence is a non-profit care home serving the minority English-language community in Montreal. For more than 130 years, the residence has served as a beacon of hope for women in their time of need. Until six weeks ago, Fulford was serving 31 senior women with diverse and complex care needs, including my mother, a blind 76-year-old with mobility issues. Then COVID changed everything.
For nearly 11 months, a combination of heroic efforts by health workers and good fortune kept the virus at bay. Yet in January, COVID found its way into Fulford. First one, then several, then nearly all residents and three-quarters of the staff were infected. Ten women died. Health workers became severely ill. Many of those who recovered – including my mother – were left emotionally traumatized by the experience. Those who survived did so thanks to the dedication of nurses, personal support workers, and maintenance staff who overcame fatigue from hours of meticulous caregiving and worked through frustration at a lack of government-supplied personal protective equipment.
A slow return to familiar routines for the remaining residents and the bittersweet delivery of long-awaited vaccines should have been a cause for calm, if not celebration. At a minimum, a moment of gratitude for the workers of Fulford and anticipation of family hugs and dinners to come, eventually.
Yet on Monday, an email arrived informing families that due to the impact of the virus, Fulford no longer has the financial capacity to remain a long-term care home. Its doors are scheduled to close for good by September at the latest, displacing the elderly residents and putting health care providers out of work.
Fulford’s closure would be devastating for residents, families, and staff. Moving homes can be disorientating under the best circumstances, this would be under the worst. While my family is personally affected, I also believe as a citizen in this institution. In this respect, I see Fulford’s loss as a wound to the soul of my city trying to maintain its equilibrium during a pandemic.
Fulford’s history is Montreal’s history. Born of faith, the residence today is a representation of the diversity of the city, with many of the women who live there now having begun their journey in countries far away and environments far different. A home to writers and musicians, parents and public servants, Fulford is a reflection of the creative vibrancy and robust generosity of Montreal. It is also an essential resource to the anglophone community.
Operating out of its mid-19th century “cottage” on Rue Guy, the residence is unique in its intimacy. From the décor to the meals to the caregivers, Fulford is not a facility but a home; residents are not provided services, they are given love. It is an example of care that is both diligent and dignified.
COVID’s ravaging of long-term care residents has rightly sparked an overdue national conversation on how the elderly are treated in our society. I respectfully invite policymakers, and my fellow citizens, to consider if the effort to preserve Fulford is the appropriate moment to take a stand. To learn more, please visit www.savefulford.ca.
Christopher Holcroft is a Montreal-based writer. His mother has lived happily at Fulford for nearly three years.