With residents dying from COVID-19, Shawinigan long-term care home still waits for help to arrive

Five more residents died at CHSLD Laflèche from Sunday to Monday, bringing the number of fatalities caused by the coronavirus to 27. With 63 health-care workers in isolation after testing positive, reinforcements are desperately needed.

Five more residents died at CHSLD Laflèche in 24 hours, bringing fatalities to 27

Twenty-seven residents at the CHSLD Laflèche in Shawinigan, Que., have died of complications related to COVID-19, including five from Sunday to Monday on the Easter long weekend. (Radio-Canada)

Five more residents have died since Sunday at CHSLD Laflèche — one of the long-term care homes in Quebec most decimated by COVID-19, with 96 infected residents. The death toll at the home in Shawinigan, Que., now stands at 27. 

With 63 Laflèche health-care workers in isolation after testing positive, 50 reinforcements were promised before the Easter long weekend, but the workers' union says its members are still waiting for backup to arrive.

Several floors and departments at the institution remained understaffed on Saturday and Sunday, said Pascal Bastarache, president of the CSN-affiliated union representing personal care workers.

"It was mostly staff who were already exhausted — both physically and mentally — working at the Laflèche residence this weekend," Bastarache said.

The regional health agency for Maurice and Central Quebec said 43 health-care workers were sent to CHSLD Laflèche and more are on the way.

Patrice Bastarache, president of the local union representing personal care attendants at the CHSLD Laflèche in Shawinigan, Que., said with 64 workers in isolation due to COVID-19 infections, the remaining staff is exhausted and desperate for help. (Radio-Canada)

On Friday, Quebec Health Minister Danielle McCann said the government was "pulling out all the stops" to redirect some 1,000 health-care personnel to long-term care homes that need assistance.

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She said CHSLD Laflèche would get "many workers" to "stabilize teams over the weekend."

On Monday, Premier François Legault acknowledged finding qualified help has not been easy. He said 450 doctors are being asked to transfer to institutions where the needs are greatest.

"We're looking at every way possible to find workers who can do this," Legault said.

The president of the union representing health-care professionals in the Mauricie Central Quebec region, Nathalie Perron, said all this is easier said than done.

In most cases, she said, nurses and auxiliary nurses who are being asked to transfer to long-term care homes "have never worked in a CHSLD."

The same goes for citizens signing up for the government program Je Contribue, Perron said: they need to be trained before they can can be assigned a shift.

Replacement teams are also waiting for uniforms and personal protection equipment before they enter an environment that has COVID-19 cases, she said.

"It's not perfect yet, but it's starting to be rolled out."

Since nurses and doctors who treat COVID-19 patients won't be allowed to go back to work in regular hospitals, Perron said she hopes transferring them to long-term care institutions won't end up causing other staff shortages on hospital wards.

"This is necessary to help out other sectors, and right now we can afford to do this," said Perron. "But we have to make sure it's not another category of health care that will suffer."

On Monday, 46 new cases of COVID-19 were confirmed in the Mauricie region, bringing the total number of cases in the region to 786.

Eight people have died over the last 24 hours, including the five who were residents of CHSLD Laflèche, for a total of 41 deaths.

With files from Radio-Canada

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