MONTREAL -- Nancy Falaise was one of the thousands who stepped up to help in Quebec’s long-term care facilities that have been hit hard by COVID-19 after she was ordered to close her business.

She shut her hair salon when it was deemed non-essential, and took a cleaning position in a long-term care facility, and was shocked at the conditions at the care homes.

“It started to get emotionally very difficult because of what I saw,” she said.

Falaise now has the virus, though she is uncertain where she caught it.

She often finished her shift in tears because of the conditions that had deteriorated due to lack of staff.

“It’s the despair in people’s faces,” she said. “A lot of people are talking about the elderly people, and, yes, they should because the conditions are really bad, but I also saw despair in the nurses’ faces and the people that are taking care of them.”

The union representing many orderlies and healthcare workers said volunteers with little training helps the situation, but that priority should be given to primary care givers.

“I would say even before hiring people without any qualifications, the first people back, that are will to come back, should be the caregivers,” said FSSS-CSN union president Jeff Begley.

Currently, about half Quebec’s care workers, around 10,000, are off the job because they tested positive for the virus.

Premier Francois Legault said 11,000 others have offered their fulltime services to help in the long-term care centres.

“We think that in the next few days, we’ll be able to fill all the jobs that were open, so it will help for the difficulty of the job because when you’re short of staff, it’s tough for the staff that is in this situation,” he said in his daily news briefing.

Falaise said if she can’t reopen her business when she recovers, she’ll go back to help in long-term facilities.

“What I have experienced at the CHSLD has humbled me in a way that nothing else has ever done,” she said.