Workers speak out at nursing home where nearly half of residents have COVID-19
MONTREAL -- Front-line health-care workers at a long-term care home in Quebec where nearly half of residents have tested positive for COVID-19 are speaking out with grave concerns about the facility.
The outbreak at the Sainte-Dorothee long-term care home in Laval has already infected 115 of the 250 residents, and 13 have died. Provincial health officials have announced they will investigate the outbreak.
One emergency room nurse dispatched to help manage the crisis at the province-run centre said the instructions she was given were simply to try to keep the patients alive.
"They were putting us on the front lines and telling us good luck," said one nurse, who spoke on the condition of anonymity.
Another frontline worker at the facility said she was told she would not be given an N95 mask, despite working in close proximity with sick and elderly patients.
“I asked and the charge nurse told me I would have to go and buy some by myself if I wanted to," she said.
A union that represents workers at the home also alleges that some workers who showed symptoms of COVID-19 were told to report for work -- instructions that directly contradict clear guidelines from federal health authorities.
The pandemic has exposed deep concerns about the province’s long-term care facilities, many of which were already struggling with staff shortages before COVID-19. At some facilities, personal support workers make between $17 to $21 per hour and face tough work conditions.
On Wednesday, the Quebec government announced a series of new measures aimed at helping the overburdened system, including COVID-19 testing for all patients and workers. The province has also promised more equipment and the deployment of 450 doctors and 500 nurses to the centres.
Quebec’s health minister said more staff will mean health-care workers won’t work from home to home -- a measure that has already been recommended in Ontario and mandated in British Columbia.
For families with loved ones living inside those facilities, the pandemic has been both terrifying and heartbreaking.
Kenneth Wheeland, a resident of a facility in Lasalle, Que., was critically ill with COVID-19 last week. His family was determined not to let their father die alone -- and so they were granted permission to be by his side.
Last Saturday, Wheeland died at the facility surrounded by his children.
"If any of his kids were in a similar situation where they were alone and dying, he would've broken down the doors with a hammer to be with them," his son Peter said.
After losing their father, Peter and Judie Wheeland are now focused on doing whatever they can to help their mother, who lives at another long-term care home experiencing an outbreak.
"It was, I think, a crisis in the waiting," Judie said.
More than 600 nursing homes across Canada have been hit by COVID-19, which is disproportionately more deadly for seniors. The latest data from Canada Public Health shows that 93 per cent of all COVID-19 deaths were people over the age of 60.
As of Wednesday, more than 19,000 people in Canada have been confirmed as infected with the virus and 435 have died. More than half of Canada’s overall cases have been reported in Quebec.