More than 400 long-term care residences in Quebec have confirmed COVID-19 cases

More than half of Quebec's 31 deaths attributed to COVID-19 have been in chronic-care institutions, and families are worried about a shortage of staff as the virus spreads.

Families worry about lack of resources as death toll climbs

Emergency workers wearing protective masks, gloves and clothing are shown at a seniors' residence in Lavaltrie, Que. (Graham Hughes/The Canadian Press)

The Quebec government announced Wednesday that the number of facilities affected has risen to 519. You can read our latest story here.

Quebec seniors' homes and long-term care facilities have emerged as a key risk point in the province's fight to contain COVID-19.

More than half of Quebec's 31 deaths attributed to the virus have originated in chronic-care instituions, and cases have been recorded in 410 locations across the province, public health said Tuesday.

One of those locations is the CHSLD in LaSalle, where two people died, and at least 12 others have contracted COVID-19.

Giselle Roy Sauriol, 92, was one of the two residents who died there.

Her daughter, Micheline Sauriol, said she was taken to the Jewish General Hospital for treatment, but then returned to the CHSLD on the weekend.

She was allowed to be with her mother in her final hours.

"It all happened very quickly," said Micheline Sauriol, who was given scrubs and protective equipment to be able to enter the CHSLD and see her mother.

"She was really happy to see me. She'd been isolated since March 14, and I think that going back and forth between the facilities was very destabilizing for her."

Sauriol praised the efforts of staff at the CHSLD, but said she's concerned they won't be able to handle the coming weeks, especially after many have been forced to stay home with symptoms of their own.

"There's almost no one left," she said. "I could hear people in respiratory distress in neighbouring rooms."

The CIUSSS Centre-Sud-de-l'Île-de-Montréal confirmed Wednesday that there are 3 confirmed cases and 21 suspected cases at the CHSLD Manoir de Verdun. 

In Laval, health officials reported 24 cases between two residences, the CHSLD Sainte-Dorothée and the Centre d'hébergement La Pinière, including four deaths.

Quebec's director of public health, Horacio Arruda, left, Premier François Legault and Health Minister Danielle McCann give their daily news conference on COVID-19 Tuesday. Arruda said there were 410 seniors homes with cases in the province. (Jacques Boissinot/The Canadian Press)

Health Minister Danielle McCann said long-term care facilities are following a practice of isolating patients on floors and creating so-called "hot zones" for those being tested or with symptoms and "cold zones" for others.

"That is the best way to protect: to separate those two groups of people,'' she said.

Residents who have tested positive at the Manoir de Verdun, for example, have been moved to the second floor.

Staff working on that floor are not working in other areas of the residence, in order to limit spread.

Asymptomatic residents who normally live on the second floor have been moved to a common area on the first floor, and staff are taking steps to keep enough distance between residents, according to local health authorities. 

Among the 410 locations with a recorded case of COVID-19, 184 are long-term care homes, 114 are seniors' residences, and 112 other kinds of facilities where seniors live.

Of the 31 deaths in the province, almost all have been people 70 and older with underlying health issues.

How to stop the spread?

Visits to long-term care homes have been prohibited to prevent the spread of the virus since March 14. 

Dr. Horacio Arruda, the director of public health, said limiting transmission in such facilities is crucial, given that many people living there are at high risk of dying if they contract the infection. 

"So, it's based on knowing exactly what is the situation: is it on one floor? is it only in one unit? And if it's only in one unit, is this unit going to be isolated from the other parts?"

Earlier this week, the province announced $133 million in emergency aid to seniors' homes and long-term care facilities. 

But Jim Psomas, whose mother is at the CHSLD Sainte-Dorothée where three people have died from COVID-19, said the money hasn't come soon enough. 

"If your mom were to contract the virus, what options do you give us? Do we send her to the hospital or just try to keep her comfortable? She's 83 years old."

With files from Sudha Krishnan and The Canadian Press

Add some “good” to your morning and evening.

A variety of newsletters you'll love, delivered straight to you.

Sign up now