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Outbreaks at private seniors' homes strain Outaouais health resources, officials say

Outbreaks at Outaouais retirement homes are a growing concern, not only because of their impact on vulnerable citizens, but also the strain they put on all health-care services, health officials say. 

6 retirement homes in western Quebec dealing with COVID-19 outbreaks

A man brings supplies to a seniors' residence in Quebec. (Ryan Remiorz/The Canadian Press)

Outbreaks at Outaouais retirement homes are a growing concern, not only because of their impact on vulnerable citizens, but also the strain they put on all health-care services, health officials say. 

"What we're experiencing during the second wave is an increase in major outbreaks in seniors' homes," explained Dr. Brigitte Pinard, the director of public health with the Centre Intégré de santé et de services sociaux de l'Outaouais (CISSSO).

Currently, there are outbreaks at six retirement homes in the region, according to the Outaouais region public health website. 

The largest unfolded at the Chartwell Domaine Notre-Dame where at one point in mid-November, there were 71 active cases among residents. There are currently 19. 

The health-care system has gotten much better locking down outbreaks in long-term care facilities because they are already part of the health-care system; however, private seniors' residences do not typically have health-care professionals on staff, said Pinard.

Dr. Brigitte Pinard is the director of public health with the Centre Intégré de santé et de services sociaux de l'Outaouais (CISSSO). (Zoom)

"So when there's an outbreak, the health-care system needs to provide a fair amount of support to control the situation," she said. 

She warned it's important to move in quickly to tamp down outbreaks in seniors' residences because once out of control, they increase the risk of hospitalizations and the hospitals are already stretched.

The largest hospitals in the region, the Gatineau and Hull hospitals, have been well over capacity this week, with the Hull Hospital reaching 132 per cent capacity Wednesday evening. 

This week, Premier François Legault said seniors' residences across the province represent an added pressure on personnel shortages where an estimated 6,500 health-care workers are currently on leave or preventive leave "and it increases every day."

Patrick Guay, the president of the Syndicat des professionnelles en soins de l'Outaouais (SPSO), the union representing nurses, estimates there are currently 400 nursing positions unfilled, with an additional 100 nurses on leave as a direct result of COVID-19 infection or close contact with a case.  

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