COVID-19 in Quebec: Armed Forces members arrive to help in long-term care homes

The 125 members of the Canadian Armed Forces with medical training, who are being sent by Ottawa after Quebec asked for assistance, are arriving to help in the province's long-term care homes today.

Armed Forces members are deploying to CHSLDs, CBC investigation sheds light on what happened at Herron

An Armed Forces member walks out of CHSLD Yvon-Brunet on Saturday. About 125 nursing officers, medical technicians and support personnel were sent to help after Quebec asked Ottawa for assistance earlier this week. (Graham Hughes/The Canadian Press)
  • Quebec has 17,521 confirmed cases of COVID-19 — an increase of 743 new cases. With 117 more deaths recorded, a total of 805 people have died of COVID-19.
  • There are 1,130 people in hospital, including 258 in intensive care. Here's a guide to the numbers.
  • Canadian military medical personnel arrived to help in critically short-staffed long-term care homes.
  • A CBC investigation revealed orderlies at CHSLD Herron worked without PPE, and COVID-19 patients wandered the halls for days after health agency took over.
  • Montreal's state of emergency is extended until April 22. It was first enacted March 27.
  • The city has added barriers outside more sidewalks to allow for pedestrians to practise physical distancing more easily.

Medically-trained members of the Canadian Armed Forces began to assess the situation in the province's long-term care homes Saturday.

Around 125 nursing officers, medical technicians and support personnel have been sent to help after Quebec asked Ottawa for assistance earlier this week.

Lt.-Cmdr. Heather Galbraith, a physician in the Royal Canadian Navy, was at the CHSLD Yvon-Brunet in the Sud-Ouest borough on Saturday afternoon. She said the Forces' members will evaluate the situation as quickly as possible so full resources can be deployed.

"Our airwomen and airmen and sailors are very well-poised in health care provision," Galbraith said.

"I will say they're not used to working in a long-term care facility, per se. However, they are very, very clinically minded."

Seniors' residences are the government's main focus even as the overall coronavirus infection curve has reached a plateau, according to public health officials. The Quebec premier and health officials are no longer holding their daily briefings on weekends, but the province released updated statistics on the pandemic Saturday.

There are 743 more confirmed cases, bringing the total to 17,521. 

There were 117 more deaths recorded — second only to the 143 added on April 16 — for a total of 805. There are now 1,130 people in hospital, including 258 in intensive care. The increase of 51 in intensive care is the largest single-day increase since the crisis began.

Quebec's director of public health, Dr. Horacio Arruda, said Friday that the peak of deaths and hospitalizations was expected to come after the peak in overall infections. He also said that while Quebec had been successful in flattening the overall infection curve, that was not the case for seniors' residences and long-term care centres.

COVID-19, the illness caused by the novel coronavirus, has spread to hundreds of residents and staff at many of Quebec's long-term care homes, known as CHSLDs. 

In some homes hit hard by the outbreak, more than 100 staff have fallen sick.

Galbraith said residents at CHSLD Yvon-Brunet applauded when the Forces' members entered the building.

"This situation is so dire," she said. "People need help. We are health-care providers and we can provide that in some form. And they are just over the moon, in my opinion, to get any kind of assistance."

In their daily briefings with the media, Premier François Legault and Health Minister Danielle McCann repeatedly said there was a shortfall of thousands of staff in the homes — which were beset by shortages before the pandemic started and are now missing even more people after hundreds had to go into isolation.

The Quebec government has been criticized for not acting swiftly enough when the virus began to spread in the province's seniors' and long-term care homes. 

To address the shortage, the government launched a website, Je Contribue, where people with health-care experience could offer to help. On Friday, Legault said over 50,000 people had registered, and the government had contacted around 30,000.

In a news release Saturday, the government said staff from Hydro-Québec and Revenu Québec would assist with making calls this weekend to people who had registered.

Grace Dart orderly dies

An orderly who worked at the Grace Dart Extended Care Centre has died from COVID-19, her union said Saturday.

The orderly's name was not released, but in a statement the Canadian Union of Public Employees said she had more than 25 years of experience and was "devoted to the residents" of Grace Dart. She had been working at the centre, located in the Hochelaga-Maisonneuve borough, up until April 11, the union said.

According to the centre's website, the facility has 256 beds. On April 16, the Quebec government reported that there were 62 confirmed cases of COVID-19 at Grace Dart.

Herron staff still struggled after health board intervened

CBC Quebec's ongoing coverage into the crisis in Quebec's long-term care homes has won RDTNA award. Here, Lori Morrison and her husband Greg Giroux hold up a signs outside CHSLD Herron, a private Montreal-area seniors' residence. (Graham Hughes/The Canadian Press)

A CBC Montreal investigation has revealed workers at one of the worst-hit CHSLDs in the province, CHSLD Herron in Dorval, were working without protective equipment for weeks as the coronavirus spread among them and residents. 

Nine staff members who spoke to CBC described not knowing which residents had tested positive for COVID-19, and being so short-staffed on some shifts that they weren't able to meet the basic needs of the 130 residents.

Records from the owners of CHSLD Herron indicate that, of the 31 residents known to have died at the home since the start of the pandemic, 28 of them died under the watch of the regional health agency.

You can read more here about what unfolded at the residence in the days leading up to and after the owners' call for reinforcements from the local health board.

Wider walking spaces so you can physical distance in peace

After a successful trial period on Mont-Royal Avenue, the City of Montreal has added more barriers on streets in nine boroughs so people can exercise physical distancing while they walk past each other. 

The barriers turn on-street parking spots into impromptu sidewalks. Before, some pedestrians were stepping out onto the street as traffic zoomed by to be able to maintain two metres distance from others. 

Many Montrealers have taken to wearing masks when making essential trips such as to the grocery store during the COVID-19 pandemic. (Ryan Remiorz/The Canadian Press)

The walkways are about 4.5 metres wide and can now be found on several main arteries across the city.

With files from Antoni Nerestant

Add some “good” to your morning and evening.

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

Sign up now