Montreal

Families protest Quebec's ban on visitors to long-term care homes, fearing neglect

More than two dozen people gathered in front of an long-term care centre in Côte Saint-Luc on Sunday to protest Quebec's ban on visitors to such facilities, which is among the unprecedented range of measures the provincial government has taken to limit the spread of COVID-19.

On Saturday, the Quebec government banned non-essential people and visitors from CHSLDs and hospitals

A group of about 30 people gathered in front of the Maimonides Geriatric Centre in Côte Saint-Luc on Sunday. They say now that the province has banned visitors from long-term care facilities and hospitals, their loved ones lives are on the line. (Matt D'Amours/CBC)

More than two dozen people gathered in front of an long-term care centre in Côte Saint-Luc on Sunday to protest Quebec's ban on visitors to such facilities, which is among the unprecedented range of measures the provincial government has taken to limit the spread of COVID-19. 

But at the Maimonides Geriatric Centre, many in the crowd said the ban that was introduced on Saturday won't protect their loved ones from the virus, but rather expose them to neglect.

"None of our parents will survive two weeks," said Ruth Chriqui. Her mother is a resident of the geriatric centre, which is part of the CIUSSS for West-Central Montreal.

"She will be in her feces for a long time, and she will not eat. There is no care. That's why we are obliged to get our own private care," said Chriqui.

She's asked for an exception from the centre, saying that the caregiver she pays for privately is necessary to her mother's quality of care.

COVID-19 is highly infectious and, though generally treatable, has a much higher mortality rate among the elderly. That was among the reasons Premier François Legault gave for implementing the ban. 

He also barred visits to hospitals and discouraged people over 70 from leaving their homes. 

The Liberal MP for Mount Royal, Anthony Housefather, said he's "heartbroken" about the decision.

Housefather, whose father is a resident at Maimonides, recently ended a period self-imposed isolation.

He said his father's private caregiver was asked to leave the facility Saturday and wasn't allowed in on Sunday.

For every 100 patients at Maimonides, there is only one full-time nurse and three orderlies, Housefather said.

Mount Royal MP Anthony Housefather says his dad is in care and his family's private caregiver has been denied access to the long-term care centre where he lives. (CBC)

"We're afraid that the very understaffed institutions will not be able to cope with the load," he said. "Normally you have dozens of caregivers on the floor that are feeding the patients, taking them to the bathroom, dealing with them socially and now you don't have any of that."

He said he understands the need to protect seniors from the spread of COVID-19, but in this case, "the harm outweighs the good."

"This is going to mean that people are not going to get basic care."

Families also kept out

It's not just private caregivers who have been banned from helping out in long-term care facilities, also known in Quebec as CHSLDs. 

Janet Vekteris and her family visit her 91-year-old mother in a long-term care facility in NDG and provide what she calls an essential service.

"Family members: we call ourselves not 'visitors' but 'caretakers,'" she said. 

Vekteris says she thinks the province needs to hire more staff to make up the difference if they insist on banning outside help.

She also thinks an exception should be made for family members who help provide care.

"We could be given a designation as 'volunteer care workers'. We do help support the staff here — the staff is appreciative of our help."

CBC Montreal reporter Matt D'Amours asked the assembled crowd to raise their hands if they were concerned their loved ones in care would die as a result of this measure. (CBC)

On Sunday, Premier François Legault said there is room for exceptions to the ban on visitors.

"I've had some people calling me yesterday, and they told me: 'My mother is dying — I want to see her a last time.' So of course, this is an exception."

But the guidelines on who qualifies for an exception are not clear. A Health Ministry spokesperson provided CBC News with two examples: important medical appointments, and family members on the brink of death.

"We're working right now to recruit additional resources for the health and social services network, which includes CHSLDs," the spokesperson said.

With files from CBC's Matt D'Amours

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