COVID-19 in Quebec: With long-term care homes still short-staffed, premier asks Ottawa for 1,000 soldiers

Despite Premier François Legault’s assurances the situation is beginning to stabilize, health-care workers in the province’s long-term care homes say there is still a lack of protective equipment, and safety measures are being disregarded because of staffing issues.

About 1.6 per cent of health care workers in Quebec — as many as 4,000 — are sick with COVID-19, according to Health Minister Danielle McCann. In Montreal, however, that number is closer to three per cent.

Orderlies and cleaning staff are about twice as likely to catch the virus than nurses, according to Jeff Begley, president of the health and social services federation of the CSN union.

“That’s not surprising because the hot spots are in long-term care centres, and the staff that are on the day-to-day front lines are majority this type of worker,” Begley said.

McCann has said equipment shortages should no longer be an issue in the residences, but Begley says some employees are having to reuse single-use masks and wear them longer than they normally should.

On Tuesday, the number of positive cases in long-term care homes, known in the province as CHSLDs, as well as private seniors’ residences, rose by nine per cent in 24 hours to 4,399 people infected.

The number of residences considered to be in a “critical situation” has nearly doubled in the past week, going from 41 to 80.

In all, approximately 850 of the 1,041 people who have died from COVID-19 in Quebec were residents of CHSLDs or seniors’ homes.

The rising death toll inside the homes puts the province on pace to surpass the most optimistic scenario of 1,263 by April 30, which was presented by public health experts earlier this month.

The home with the highest number of cases as of Wednesday morning is CHSLD Laurendeau, which has 169 cases and 49 deaths. At least 67 people have died at the the CHSLD Sainte-Dorothée in Laval, where there are 158 cases, the equivalent of 82 per cent of its capacity.

The official count has also risen to 33 at the Herron, a privately-owned CHSLD in Dorval. There are 73 positive COVID-19 cases at the residence.

Sacré-Coeur Hospital dealing with outbreak

While long-term care homes bear the brunt of the epidemic in Quebec, hospitals haven’t yet seen as high a load of cases as feared.

Legault said Tuesday operating rooms could soon open at half capacity to take on surgeries that had been delayed to free up equipment and staff.

The announcement was accompanied with confusion as for days he had been begging medical specialists, such as surgeons, to help out in CHSLDs.

The federation representing the specialists wrote a letter to the premier saying many of those who had volunteered haven’t yet been called back.

But another Montreal hospital is in the grips of a coronavirus outbreak.

Five wards on four different floors at Montreal’s Sacré-Cœur hospital are affected, and close to 120 patients have tested positive.

Cancer patients and others with already weakened immune systems are among them.

Health-care workers say small, shared rooms with no possibility of physical distancing have contributed to the spread of the novel coronavirus.

A bit of levity

Things feel a little bleak. But people are finding ways to bring joy to themselves and others. This Trois-Rivières family is using some of their time at home to show off their moves — on TikTok.

The three Haley-Guimond sisters have even enlisted their parents.

Quebec City couple Evelyne Paré and Simon Blanchet have garnered attention with their method of passing the time.

Paré and Blanchet made a stop-motion video that used nearly 5,000 pieces of Lego to pay tribute to the province’s health-care and other essential workers.

The result is a film that runs just under two minutes, starring Quebec Public Health Director Horacio Arruda, Health Minister Danielle McCann and Premier François Legault, a.k.a. François Lego.


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