An 'alarming' return of coronavirus in Quebec's long-term care homes

Outbreaks in long-care homes in the province are growing in number and scope, with two more homes in Montreal high on the government list of outbreaks. 

Cases doubled in one week at the Manoir West Island long-term care home in Pierrefonds

The Château Westmoun long-term care home has seen a steady rise in cases since early November. (CBC)

Outbreaks in long-care homes in the province are growing in number and scope, with two more homes in Montreal high on the government list of outbreaks. 

The number of cases at the Manoir West Island in Pierrefonds has nearly doubled since Sunday and family members say they are in the dark about how their loved ones are doing. 

As of Thursday, 56 residents, or 64 per cent of the home's capacity, had tested positive for COVID-19 and six had died. Just four days earlier, that number was 33 infected residents and zero deaths. 

"That's six deaths in one week," said Gladys Chan, whose 88-year-old father has lived at the home since October 2019. "It's just very alarming." 

Chan says staff have been hard to reach and when someone did get in touch they weren't able to tell her if her father had had another test since he tested negative over the weekend. 

"They're doing it just to say they've done it, they've contacted the families. But we don't know what's going on in there. We don't know what's happening to my father," Chan said. 

"It's almost the same as having dead silence."

Betty Wilson, a 94-year-old resident at the Manoir who tested positive for COVID-19 Monday, said earlier this week the home was so short-staffed she had to ask several staff members and wait a significant amount of time before getting help to go to the bathroom because she is in a wheelchair. 

Crisis unit set up at Manoir

A spokesperson for the local health board, the CIUSSS de l'Ouest-de-l'Île-de-Montréal, says all employees and residents underwent testing for the virus as soon as some began showing symptoms. 

The spokesperson, Hélène Bergeron-Gamache, said a crisis unit has been set up at the Manoir and that the health board sent extra teams of staff to help out. 

"The CIUSSS outbreak management team is also present to strengthen the implementation of good practices in infection prevention and control," Bergeron-Gamache wrote in an email. 

"Our priority is to ensure the health and safety of residents and staff, and all of our efforts are directed to that end."

Another long-term care home on the island has seen a steady rise in positive cases since early November.

Many asymptomatic cases at Château Westmount

At the Château Westmount, 46 residents — or 43 per cent of the home's capacity — had tested positive for COVID-19 as of Thursday, putting it right below the Manoir on the government list. 

Cases have more than doubled in one week at Manoir West Island in Pierrefonds, where 64 per cent of residents have tested positive for COVID-19 and six have died. (CBC)

Yves Vincelette, the nurse in charge of infection prevention and control at Château Westmount, says the home is hoping to have its outbreak under control within the next couple weeks.

Vincelette says many of the infected residents are asymptomatic and 16 have recovered from the disease. 

The home had been grouping infected residents in red zones, but Vincelette says, after consulting with the local health board, he and his team decided to isolate residents in their rooms instead. 

"It didn't work out well, we still had some spread outside those zones," he said. "It's also easier this way, so the residents don't have to move around, they stay in their own environment."

There are staff dedicated to rooms with infected residents and others to rooms where residents have tested negative. 

He says the home has been in touch with families every day, prioritizing those who have relatives who are sick, and has also been posting a daily blog on its website with updates. 

Vincelette says the outbreak was likely caused by staff members who came into work without symptoms but may have already been contagious. 

"It's a very contagious virus so, as of now, what we've seen is asymptomatic employees who came in, who unfortunately contaminated one of more residents and it spread from there," he said. 

Friday, the independent committee charged with deciding who should be the first Canadians to be vaccinated against COVID-19 released its final directive recommending that long-term care home residents and seniors over the age of 80 get priority access to the vaccine. 

With files from Matt D'Amours and Josh Grant


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