COVID-19 in Quebec: Death toll surpasses 1,000; 850 of dead were in long-term care

  • Quebec has 20,126 confirmed cases of COVID-19, and 1,041 people have died. Of those, some 850 were residents of long-term care institutions.
  • There are 1,224 people in hospital, including 201 in intensive care. Here’s a guide to the numbers.
  • Quebec’s College of Physicians is investigating practices at CHSLD Herron and the Montreal Geriatric Institute.
  • Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante is looking at ways to restart her city’s economy
  • Construction workers on residential projects are back on the job across Quebec.

Quebec marked a grim milestone Tuesday, as Premier François Legault revealed another 102 people have died due to COVID-19, bringing the province’s total death toll to more than 1,000.

Legault said approximately 850 of the 1,041 deceased were residents of long-term care homes, known as CHSLDs, or other kinds of seniors’ residences.

Of those affected CHSLDs, Legault said the majority of COVID-19 cases are in about 80 institutions. He said the staffing shortages that have crippled many CHSLDs are slowly being rectified.

“We continue the deployment of health workers in seniors’ residences,” he said.

“The situation is getting more and more under control.”

Outside those long-term care homes, Legault said, the situation is more stable, and his government continues to look at how to restart the economy and lift certain restrictions.

He said the government is preparing a plan, based on recommendations from public health, to gradually reopen schools and daycares over the coming weeks and months.

This is a developing story. Please read our earlier story, below.

The professional orders representing doctors and nurses in the province announced Tuesday they are jointly investigating two Montreal facilities where dozens of seniors in care have died in the past few weeks. 

Quebec’s physicians’ order, the Collège des médecins (CMQ), and two separate orders for nurses and auxiliary nurses said they will look into practices at the CHSLD Herron in Dorval and the Montreal Geriatric Institute, where there have been dozens of deaths, and the treatment of residents as a result of staff shortages has garnered scrutiny.

“The College is very concerned about the situation of seniors living in long-term care residences. This is a particularly vulnerable segment of the population, and our role is to ensure that residents of all CHSLDs have access to the same quality care,” Dr. Mauril Gaudreault, said the president of the CMQ in a statement.

Last week, a CBC Montreal investigation revealed workers at the Herron were caring for patients without personal protective equipment for weeks, as the coronavirus spread within the institution. 

Nine Herron workers who spoke to CBC described not knowing which residents had tested positive for COVID-19 and being so short-staffed on some shifts that they weren’t able to meet the basic needs of some 130 residents.

Across Quebec, at least 4,000 residents of long-term care homes have been infected, the premier said Monday, and 4,000 health-care workers in those institutions are also sick,  according to calculations done by La Presse.

Even with replacement workers, the system is still short 2,000 staff, Legault said. He said CHSLDs still need more help, despite the assistance of many medical specialists and members of the Armed Forces.

He said many doctors have stepped in to help and others offered to volunteer between their regular work shifts, but CHSLDs need more people to commit full-time to a single institution, to avoid spreading the virus from one facility to another.

The province is also considering sending civil servants working in non front-line areas of the health care system to help in the homes.

Another class action suit in the works

Of the province’s long-term care homes, CHSLD Laurendeau in Montreal’s Ahuntsic-Cartierville borough has the highest number of confirmed cases of COVID-19, with 162 of its residents infected.

CHSLD Sainte-Dorothée is second on the list, with 158 cases — the equivalent of 82 per cent of the home’s total number of beds. 

The publicly owned facility is now the subject of a class-action lawsuit application. The son of one of the 67 people who have died at the residence since the beginning of the pandemic submitted the request for the lawsuit through his lawyer on Monday.

It is pending the approval of a Quebec Superior Court justice before it can go ahead.

The request accuses both the long-term residence and the CISSS de Laval of failing to offer employees adequate protective equipment and neglecting to quarantine residents who were symptomatic. 

A separate request for a lawsuit was made against the CHLSD Herron.

Daycare workers urge caution

While Legault has said he has no immediate plans to re-open schools, he is looking at allowing more parents to soon send their children to daycare. 

Under the current setup, daycares have been taking in the children of essential workers. 

Marie-Claude Lemieux, a spokesperson for the Association québécoise des centres de la petite enfance, said out of thousands of children at daycare, only about six have tested positive. 

That’s partially because they are nowhere near capacity, she said. A space that normally has 80 children now has, on average, between five and 15.

Lemieux said welcoming more children while keeping the spaces virus-free would be difficult, and stressful for staff. 

“They don’t want to spread this virus among their family,” she said. 

She acknowledged, however, that daycares will eventually need to take in more children. She wants the province to be careful and to listen to her group if it feels something needs to change.

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