Maisonneuve-Rosemont Hospital cancels surgeries due to COVID-19 outbreak

Four surgery wards and eight other wards at Maisonneuve-Rosemont Hospital in eastern Montreal have been hit by outbreaks of COVID-19, overwhelming its facilities and prompting doctors to cancel all surgeries requiring hospitalization. 

4 surgery wards and 8 other wards hit by outbreaks as Legault calls situation in hospitals 'under control'

exterior shot of the Maisonneuve-Rosemont Hospital
Eight out of the Maisonneuve-Rosemont Hospital's 12 main wards have been hit by COVID-19 outbreaks, prompting the hospital to cancel most surgeries. (Paul Chiasson/The Canadian Press)

Four surgery wards and four other wards at Maisonneuve-Rosemont Hospital in eastern Montreal have been hit by outbreaks of COVID-19, overwhelming its facilities and prompting doctors to cancel all surgeries requiring hospitalization. 

In total, eight out of the hospital's main 12 wards are dealing with outbreaks.

The hospital is one of Montreal's dedicated centres for COVID-19 patients.

Aside from the Jewish General, the city appears to have chosen smaller hospitals for the role, but doctors said their facilities are overburdened and they are having trouble containing the virus. 

It had to stop accepting patients for a period of 24 hours.

"The hospital is completely full," said Dr. Bernard Mathieu, an emergency room physician at the hospital and president of the association representing emergency room doctors in Quebec. 

"In the context of COVID-19 … when you have an emergency room that's overflowing, it's really difficult. And we already had a shortage of personnel, so we're having trouble maintaining course."

Surgeries requiring overnight hospital stays have also been cancelled at the hospital's sister facility, Santa Cabrini.

The hospital's emergency room occupancy stands at 113 per cent, and doctors say the intensive care unit is at capacity with patients afflicted by the coronavirus.

Another doctor told CBC News at least 30 staff are infected on a single floor.

'Worrying' situation

A spokesperson for the local health board, the CIUSSS de l'Est-de-l'Île-de-Montréal, called the situation "worrying," but said officials are making adjustments as needed to control the outbreaks.

The Ministry of Health had demanded that seniors in hospital no longer be transferred to long-term care homes (CHSLDs), because the homes themselves are overrun by outbreaks and beset by serious staff shortages

But Mathieu said that decision led to some homes refusing to take back residents who had only been in the emergency room for short periods, for treatement unrelated to COVID-19. 

"Those situations were a bit exaggerated, but I think they're starting to understand that we don't have a lot of resources," Mathieu said of the homes. 

In an email to employees on Tuesday, the head of the health board, Sylvain Lemieux, acknowledged a "worrying situation" and a "bottleneck" in emergencies, but promised things would get better.

Cancer and hemodialysis patients have so far been spared by the outbreak at the hospital. 

An ambulance arrives at Sacré-Coeur Hospital in eastern Montreal, where an outbreak last week forced the hospital to transfer a number of patients elsewhere. (Frédéric Lacelle/Radio-Canada)

Last week, an outbreak at another of the city's COVID-19-dedicated hospitals, Sacré-Coeur, swept through oncology units, infecting at least 120 patients in all. At least two died due to complications from the virus. 

Orthopedic and geriartric patients there had to be transferred to Jean-Talon Hospital and the CIUSSS transformed another nearby facility, Fleury Hospital, into a COVID-19 centre to relieve some of the pressure on Sacré-Coeur.

The long-term care wing at Jeffery Hale Hospital in Quebec has also been dealing with an outbreak declared at the end of March. It has already claimed the lives of 27 patients, and public health officials say they're not sure why the virus continues to spread.

Hospital not fit for treating coronavirus, union says

During the province's daily briefing Tuesday, Premier François Legault repeated several times that the situation in hospitals is under control.

Denis Cloutier, a spokesperson for the union representing nurses at the health board, questioned why Montreal's superhospitals, the Centre hospitalier de l'Université de Montréal (CHUM) and McGill University Health Centre (MUHC), weren't part of those designated to treat COVID-19 patients since the beginning of the pandemic. 

The MUHC has been since early April.

He said Maisonneuve-Rosemont doesn't have the right infrastructure to properly prevent spread of the infection. 

"There are a lot less negative pressure rooms. The wards are too close to each other and the way rooms are laid out — there are still several rooms with more than one patient in them," Cloutier said.

A spokesperson for the CHUM, Lucie Dufresne, explained that the health centre is "a specialized and ultra-specialized care establishment and that it has regional and provincial mandates that it must continue to fulfil, even in the context of COVID-19."

With files from Jay Turnbull. Based on a report by Radio-Canada's Thomas Gerbet and Davide Gentile

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