Montreal

Nurse who worked with COVID-19 patients had to lie to get herself tested

Kristy-Lyn Kemp can't believe how close she came to potentially starting a COVID-19 outbreak at her new job.

Screening guidelines say CHSLD staff should be tested with or without symptoms

Working in a long-term care home where there had been an outbreak, Kristy-Lyn Kemp decided to lie about having symptoms after being denied a COVID-19 screening test. After testing positive, she's glad she persisted. (Louis-Marie Philidor/CBC )

Kristy-Lyn Kemp can't believe how close she came to potentially starting a COVID-19 outbreak at her new job.

"Had I brought it to the new place, I don't know what I would have done. I would have been absolutely devastated," said Kemp.

The auxiliary nurse worked at CHSLD Résidence Herron in Dorval until the end of April.

The private long-term care home is now under government trusteeship — taken over last month after its owners asked for help in the wake of a COVID-19 outbreak and dire staff shortages.

More than 30 residents have since died of complications related to the coronavirus.

Last week, CBC News reported on Kemp's experience at Résidence Herron. Shaken by what she went through, she stopped working as a nurse, but continued visiting the home as a companion.

But when the West Island regional health authority barred her from visiting the remaining residents, Kemp resigned and was poised to start a new nursing job at a care home in Lachine this week.

Maison Herron, a long-term care home in the Montreal suburb of Dorval, is the subject of multiple investigations after dozens of residents died within the span of a month. (Graham Hughes/The Canadian Press)

As a precaution, she wanted to get tested for the virus first. Her new boss also thought it was vital that she do so.

Last Sunday, Kemp called the province's hotline to get an appointment.

"I told them I was coming from a COVID-positive environment, but I was completely asymptomatic. They told me I didn't need a test," said Kemp.

Baffled, Kemp decided to call back. Worried the same person may answer, she spoke in French this time.

"I made up symptoms. I said I had a fever and a cough. And that's when they gave me an appointment," she said.

On Monday, she was tested in Beaconsfield and about 24 hours later, was informed she was positive for the virus.

Kemp is happy she didn't give up.

"The first person I spoke on the phone with, she was very insistent that, 'No, no, you don't need the test, you are fine, you are in the clear, you are asymptomatic, you are absolutely fine,'" said Kemp, who had told them she had worked at Maison Herron.

"Even now, you say the word Herron and you automatically think COVID hotspot. We were the first place on the news when this virus broke out. To me, it really doesn't make any sense whatsoever."

Screening priorities

A spokesperson for the Ministry of Health, Robert Maranda, said the screening priorities as of May 4 are for symptomatic health professionals in direct contact with patients.

For staff working in CHSLDs, he said they are tested, with or without symptoms.

Kemp doesn't understand how she fell through the cracks. She hopes the testing guidelines are reviewed with staff who work on both the hotline and the 811 information line.

"The consequences could have been catastrophic," she said.

So far, Kemp has no symptoms. She still has her new job, but has to wait until she has two back-to-back negative COVID-19 tests before she starts work.

About the Author

Leah Hendry is a TV, radio and online journalist with CBC Montreal Investigates. Contact her via our confidential tipline: 514-597-5155 or on email at montrealinvestigates@cbc.ca.

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