COVID-19 in Quebec: 'We need you,' Legault appeals to health-care workers to help in seniors' homes

With 1,250 staff at CHSLDs sick and unable to work, Premier François Legault is urging people with health-care experience to come forward and is lifting the ban on caregivers to allow them to help out.

75 more Quebecers have died of COVID-19, for a total of 435 since the pandemic began

A worker enters the CHSLD Joseph-François Perrault in Montreal. Quebec is seeking more staff in the province's long-term care homes. (Ivanoh Demers/Radio-Canada)
  • Quebec has 14,248 confirmed cases of COVID-19. A total of 435 people have died. There are 936 people in hospital, including 230 in intensive careHere's a guide to the numbers.
  • Quebec will partly lift the ban on visits to seniors' homes, to allow experienced caregivers who test negative for COVID-19 to help out.
  • As long-term care institutions have become the epicentre for COVID-19 in the province, families of CHSLD Herron residents question the government's oversight.
  • The health agency for Nunavik has reported five new cases, bringing the total to 11.
  • Mechanics, landscapers, garden centres and home builders are to return to work in the coming days.

Quebec Premier François Legault issued an impassioned plea for people with health-care experience to help in the province's besieged long-term care homes.

At his daily briefing Tuesday, the premier stressed, once again, that staffing was already a problem in CHSLDs before the crisis. Now, he said, there are more than 1,250 employees unable to work because they are sick.

He called for assistance from recently retired health care workers and others, including teachers with experience in health care.

"We are deploying more professionals from the hospitals to the residences, but we're still lacking staff," he said. 

"I'm asking everybody available, every health worker to come forward and help us. I appeal to your sense of duty to help us protect our most vulnerable."

Legault also said he would release, and keep updated, a full list of the CHSLDs considered "hot spots" for COVID-19. He said there are 41 across the province. 

Quebec premier asks for more help from health-care workers

3 years ago
Duration 1:37
'Come forward and help us,' said Quebec Premier François Legault as he appealed for health-care workers to step forward and help in seniors' residences.

Caregivers allowed to return

Horacio Arruda, the province's director of public health, said the government will gradually allow caregivers into CHSLDs after banning them in mid-March.

He said there will be strict rules imposed on these visits, including all caregivers undergoing tests for COVID-19.

Arruda said the ban on visits from families is still in place as a safeguard to prevent the further spread of the virus. 

Quebec now has more than 14,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19. A total of 435 people have died — an increase in 75 recorded deaths since Monday, which is the biggest single-day jump since the pandemic was declared.

There are 936 people in hospital, including 230 in intensive care — up four from Monday.

Hospital unit for CHSLDs

In an effort to relieve the strain on long-term care homes, LaSalle Hospital is preparing to open a specialized unit — a hospital tent — for residents of long-term care homes on Montreal's West Island who have severe cases of COVID-19.

The regional health board, the CIUSSS de l'Ouest-de-l'Île-de-Montréal, announced the new measure Tuesday, saying it would "provide these patients with the best chance of recovery."

The Red Cross has been enlisted to help set up the new unit, and work begins today to get the unit ready to receive up to 25 patients next week, the CIUSSS said. 

The hospital tent is intended for the most critically ill patients from local long-term care facilities. The regional health board's associate director, Yvan Carbonneau, said the Red Cross has expertise and the equipment needed to set it up.

"By having this done outside the hospital, it also helps keep the virus outside the hospital," he said.

Much attention has been focused on an outbreak at CHSLD Herron in Dorval — a private, long-term care institution where 31 residents died in less than a month. Several other long-term care homes in the West Island also have serious outbreaks.

The CIUSSS and the owners of CHSLD Herron have clashed over who is at fault for the horrific conditions denounced by health-care workers who have stepped in at Herron, but families wonder why more wasn't done sooner, by anyone. 

The CIUSSS took over management of CHSLD Herron on March 29, after its administration asked for help due to dire staff shortages.

But it was only Saturday that the CIUSSS's CEO, Lynne McVey, addressed reporters. And only the night before that, board administrators discovered there had been 31 deaths at the home in less than three weeks.

An owner of Katasa Group, which manages CHSLD Herron, spoke out Monday, saying the group had done everything it could. 

"It's not easy for me and my family to be called murderers," said Katherine Chowieri. "We tried to collaborate with the CIUSSS; we asked them for help."

Legault said Tuesday the staffing situation at Herron had stabilized, and things were "under control."

Residential construction to resume

While Legault still hasn't said definitively whether children will return to school this year, more people are definitely headed back to work.

The list of new services deemed to be essential now includes:

  • Residential construction as of April 20, assuming a project is slated to be finished by July 31.
  • Landscaping and lawn maintenance, including swimming pool stores, as of April 15.
  • Garden centres and nurseries, as of April 15.
  • Products, parts and other equipment necessary for transportation and logistics services, as of April 15.
  • Service stations, vehicle maintenance and repairs, tow trucks and roadside assistance, as of April 15.

The changes mean people can finally complete their renovations, buy plants for their gardens, start getting yard work done and change their winter tires.

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