COVID-19 in Quebec: Non-urgent medical care remains on hold to free up staff for long-term care homes

Hospital workers from Quebec City and Armed Forces medical personnel are among those being assigned to long-term care homes in the greater Montreal area, where health authorities are struggling to find enough staff and to contain COVID-19.

No plans to reopen schools before May 4, but daycares could be back more quickly, Legault says

Canadian Forces personnel arrive at the Villa Val des Arbres seniors' residence on Monday in Laval, Que. (Ryan Remiorz/The Canadian Press)
  • Quebec has 19,319 confirmed cases of COVID-19, and 939 patients have died.
  • There are 1,169 people in hospital, including 198 in intensive care. Here's a guide to the numbers.
  • At least 3,000 health-care workers in the province have tested positive for COVID-19. They account for nearly one-sixth of the total cases.
  • Construction workers on residential projects are back on the job across Quebec.
  • The SAAQ is now providing licensing and registration services, modified to follow public health guidelines.

Given the critical situation in the province's long-term care homes, Premier François Legault said Monday any plans to resume non-urgent medical care in Quebec's hospitals will remain on hold in order to free up more staff to go where they're most needed.

At his daily briefing, Legault said there remains a serious shortage of 2,000 health-care workers in the province's long-term care institutions as they grapple with COVID-19.

The premier began by expressing condolences on behalf of all Quebecers to "our friends in Nova Scotia" in the wake of the weekend's shooting rampage that left at least 19 people dead. 

He also paid tribute to Victoria Salvan, the health-care worker who died of COVID-19 last week, likely contracted while she cared for patients at Grace Dart Extended Care Centre, in Montreal's east end, where nearly a quarter of the residents have been infected.

"My goal is to stabilize the situation in every affected residence," Legault said.

"That's why I have asked that all available physicians work full-time in the residences for the next two weeks."

Legault has been pleading for help from health-care workers for the past week to help remedy the shortage, though there have also been problems in quickly getting those willing into long-term care homes. 

Last week, Legault urged medical specialists to help nurses and orderlies in the homes. 

But the federation representing the specialists said they had been offering to help for weeks but hadn't received a response nor instructions on where they were needed.

As of Monday, the province now has 19,319 confirmed cases of COVID-19, and there have been 939 deaths — up 62 more than a day earlier.

Residents of Quebec's long-term care institutions, that is, both public and private CHSLDs — as well as those living in other kinds of seniors' homes — now account for more than 75 per cent of the province's deaths.

Across the province, a total of 1,169 people are in hospital with the virus, including 198 in intensive care.

Help from military, teams from Quebec City

Hospital workers from Quebec City and members of the Canadian Armed Forces with health-care experience are among those now pitching in in long-term care homes in the Montreal area, where health authorities are struggling to overcome staff shortages and to contain the spread of COVID-19.

Some 125 military nursing officers, medical technicians and support personnel are now working in five CHSLDs in Montreal, Laval and on Montreal's South Shore, including:

  • Manoir de Verdun.
  • Résidence Yvon Brunet in Ville-Émard.
  • Hôpital Sainte-Anne in Sainte-Anne-de-Bellevue.
  • Centre Valéo in Saint-Lambert. 
  • Villa Val des arbres in Laval.

With the number of COVID-19 cases much lower in the Quebec City region, workers there have been asked to lend a hand elsewhere, said Pierre Émond, a spokesperson for their union at the CHU de Québec. 

About a dozen workers are heading to Residence l'Éden in Laval, where about 20 per cent of the residents have tested positive for the virus.

Funeral-home employees are seen picking up a body at CHSLD Yvon-Brunet in Montreal on the weekend. Members of the Armed Forces are now helping at the long-term care home. (Ivanoh Demers/Radio-Canada)

Hôtel Dieu opens 2 COVID-19 units

The Centre hospitalier de l'Université de Montréal (CHUM) is opening two new 100-bed units at the old Hôtel Dieu, part of the CHUM network.

Dr. Fabrice Brunet, CHUM president and CEO, said later Monday that the new units will be reserved for COVID-19 patients from long-term care residences.

One unit will be for those who are ill, and the other will be for those who are now recovering from COVID-19, he said.

The goal is to limit the pressure on overburdened CHSLDs, providing patients with a place to recover and get follow-up treatment, Brunet said.

Dr. Fabrice Brunet, president and CEO of the CHUM, said on Monday that two new units will have 100 beds each to treat COVID-19 patients from long-term care facilities. (Radio-Canada)

No immediate plans to open schools

It appears schools in the province will remain closed beyond May 4.

Legault said Monday there's no immediate plans to resume the school year and that any announcement would come with two weeks' notice, to ensure the necessary measures are in place. 

"We don't exclude any scenario," he said. "We're in discussions with public health."

However, Legault said the province is exploring opening up more daycares sooner, as more sectors are allowed to return to work.

Residential construction resumes

The province's economy is slowly starting up again.

Residential construction and renovation projects scheduled to be finished by July 31 were allowed to resume Monday in Quebec.

Thousands of projects had been shelved due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Quebec's largest union for construction workers, as well as the home builders' association, say they will be inspecting work sites as they open to make sure measures are being taken to prevent further spread of the virus.

The home construction sector was added to Quebec's essential services last week. Legault said he was concerned what the pause would mean for Quebecers who were planning to move this year.

Businesses deemed non-essential are closed until May 5, but public health officials say it's unlikely that everything will reopen at once, even by that date.


Benjamin Shingler is based in Montreal. He previously worked at The Canadian Press, Al Jazeera America and the New Brunswick Telegraph-Journal. Follow him on Twitter @benshingler.

With files from Colin Harris and Isaac Olson

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