On Tuesday, Quebec Premier François Legault said the death toll in the province had reached 150.
People over the age of 70 account for 98% of all illness-related deaths, with figures highlighting the vulnerability of the province’s elderly population.
Almost half of them lived in government-run long-term care facilities, called CHSLDs, while 20% lived in other facilities for the aged.
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Homes for the aged and nursing homes across the province have become hotspots for the virus.
In Montreal, public health officials say there are currently 39 outbreaks in CHLSDs and retirement homes in 294 facilities.
One of these residences that has been hit hard by the pandemic is the Donald Berman Jewish Elder Care Center in the Côte-des-Neiges – Notre-Dame-de-Grâce borough of Montreal.
Coronavirus: families worry loved ones in Montreal long-term care facility
“This morning, 24 cases were positive and we had 22 negative tests,” said Dr. Mark Karanofsky, attending home physician.
Some worried family members have chosen to withdraw their loved ones from nursing homes, fearing they may contract the disease.
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Marcela Wierny transferred her Parkinson’s mother to the Jewish senior nursing home last Friday after learning that someone had tested positive for COVID-19 in the residence.
She learned of her mother’s case and then called the residence where a nurse confirmed it.
So far, one resident has died and another has been hospitalized.
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The CIUSSS Center-Ouest de Montréal, which oversees the nursing home, said that “hot zones” have been set up in all of its long-term care facilities to isolate affected residents and prevent the spread of infection .
Measures are also in place when residents are tested.
“They should receive a daily phone call from a staff member to inform them of their loved one’s situation,” said Karanofsky.
However, some frustrated family members told Global News that they were not told what was going on.
Karanofsky admitted that it was difficult to keep all families up to date due to understaffing, but said that this should change soon.
“In the coming days, we have recruited eight medical students to help communicate with all the families of the residents who are not affected,” said Karanofsky.
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Arrangements are also being made to allow more video conversations between residents and family members.
Karanofsky said they are now testing all residents on any floor where there has been a coronvirus infection, rather than testing only those with symptoms.
On Tuesday, Quebec’s Minister of Health, Danielle McCann, spoke of the concerns of seniors in nursing homes.
“Oh my god no, we are doing everything we can to protect the elderly and I can assure the families of people who are in the CHSLD that no effort is wasted,” she said.
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The government has admitted that in its response to the crisis, it overestimated the number of people requiring hospitalization and underestimated the number of people in nursing homes.
Staff will now be transferred from hospitals to long-term care facilities, as part of the government’s latest strategy to provide care to those in need.
“We are putting nurses doing infection prevention, nurses, doctors, I spoke to the president of the Quebec Federation of General Practitioners and family doctors will help,” said McCann.
Quebec public health director Horacio Arruda says tests could also be done in long-term care facilities.
“It could be an approach based on the rate of contamination to test everyone, staff and residents and bring some peace of mind to worried families across Quebec.”
– With files from Gloria Henriquez and Phil Carpenter from Global.
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